Drinking diet sodas is not the best way to quench the thirst nor cut the cravings for soft drinks, that much is true. Now scientists made a grim discovery that could finally get soda-addicted people off diet colas for good: drinking one diet soda a day increases the risk of leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
Aspartame, the key ingredient that sweetens sodas sans the calories, has long been suspected of increasing the risk of cancer but there are not many studies that could substantiate this claim. The new study shows a positive link to cancer.
As few as one diet soda daily may increase the risk for leukemia in men and women, and for multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in men, according to new results from the longest-ever running study on aspartame as a carcinogen in humans. Importantly, this is the most comprehensive, long-term study ever completed on this topic, so it holds more weight than other past studies which appeared to show no risk. And disturbingly, it may also open the door for further similar findings on other cancers in future studies.
For this study, researchers prospectively analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for a 22-year period. A total of 77,218 women and 47,810 men were included in the analysis, for a total of 2,278,396 person-years of data. Apart from sheer size, what makes this study superior to other past studies is the thoroughness with which aspartame intake was assessed. Every two years, participants were given a detailed dietary questionnaire, and their diets were reassessed every four years. Previous studies which found no link to cancer only ever assessed participants’ aspartame intake at one point in time, which could be a major weakness affecting their accuracy.
The combined results of this new study showed that just one 12-fl oz. can (355 ml) of diet soda daily leads to:
– 42 percent higher leukemia risk in men and women (pooled analysis)
– 102 percent higher multiple myeloma risk (in men only)
– 31 percent higher non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk (in men only)
These results were based on multi-variable relative risk models, all in comparison to participants who drank no diet soda. It is unknown why only men drinking higher amounts of diet soda showed increased risk for multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Note that diet soda is the largest dietary source of aspartame (by far) in the U.S. Every year, Americans consume about 5,250 tons of aspartame in total, of which about 86 percent (4,500 tons) is found in diet sodas.
Image courtesy of: [inFocus]