Sweeteners & cancer

Executive summary

* This week's paper is the latest output from the French NutriNet-Santé population study. This study started in 2009 and it involves over 100,000 adults in France. It focuses on processed foods, making it unique in the field of nutritional epidemiology.

* This paper examined the association between artificial sweeteners and cases of cancer. Most participants were non-consumers of sweeteners, which made high consumers of sweeteners very different in intake. They were also very different people, as the characteristics confirmed.

* The study found that compared to non-consumers, high-consumers of total artificial sweeteners had a 13% higher incidence of all cancers. Associations were also found with one sweetener, aspartame, and breast cancer and obesity-related cancers.

* The usual flaws of epidemiology apply. The associations found were far from levels that might suggest causation. The overall incident rate was tiny; the absolute risk difference was equally inconsequential.

* In a 2018 publication, the NutriNet-Santé study found similarly small associations between processed food intake and incidence of cancer. The consistently surprising outcome from this French study is that the evidence against processed foods is not as robust as might be expected.


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