October 27th 2021
In 2006 and 2007, our colleagues Drs. Morando Soffritti and Fiorella Belpoggi and their team at the Ramazzini Institute published a series of ground-breaking papers reporting that aspartame, one of the world’s most widely used artificial sweeteners, caused cancers at multiple sites in rats and mice.
Cancer incidence was dose-related, and
increased cancer risk was seen even at very low levels of aspartame exposure that
approached the recommended Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). Prenatal aspartame exposures
caused increased cancers in offspring at lower doses than in adults (Figure 1) - a finding of grave concern for
public health given the extensive consumption of aspartame-sweetened, low-calorie
beverages by children and pregnant women.
The Ramazzini Institute’s findings on
aspartame were savagely attacked by the chemical manufacturing and processed
food industries and by their allies in regulatory agencies. These groups put forward the unsubstantiated
claim that the Ramazzini Institute’s animal colony was poorly managed and that
the experimental animals were subject to uncontrolled infections, notably Mycoplasma infections. These groups claimed that the lesions seen in
the rodents were inflammatory rather than malignant.
These attacks had serous, negative
effects on the Ramazzini Institute and its leaders. Government funding was slashed. The
Ramazzini Institute laboratories were ridiculed. Dr. Morando Soffritti was personally
slandered and his lifetime of dedication to science called into question.
Now however, the Ramazzini Institute’s
findings on the experimental carcinogenicity of aspartame have been validated,
and Dr. Soffritti and the team have been vindicated by a recently published,
state-of-the-art reanalysis that has confirmed the original diagnoses of cancer
in 92% of cases.
In this reanalysis, all
hematolymphatic tumors from aspartame-exposed animals were reexamined using a
battery of immunohistochemical markers. The premise underlying
immunohistochemical analysis is that all cells in a malignancy are expected to
be immunohistochemically identical - i.e., monoclonal because they are all the
direct descendants of a single transformed cell. By contrast, the inflammatory
lymphocytes that respond to an infection are of diverse cellular origin and are
therefore not immunohistochemically identical, but instead are polyclonal.
This reanalysis confirmed the original
diagnoses of cancer in 72 (92.3%) of 78 cases and determined that another 3
lesions (3.8%) were premalignant. This
reanalysis also confirmed the presence of a statistically significant, positive
dose-response relationship between aspartame exposure and cancer incidence.
Lastly, it reconfirmed that prenatal exposures to aspartame produces a dose-related
increase in cancer incidence in offspring at lower exposure levels and with
shorter latency than in adults.
These revalidated findings on the
experimental carcinogenicity of aspartame need to be considered very seriously
by the regulatory agencies that had previously dismissed them. These agencies will need to urgently
reexamine their assessments of aspartame’s risks to health - especially the
risks of prenatal exposure. Indeed, the Advisory Group on Future Priorities for
the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently recommended
that the IARC Monographs Program evaluate the potential carcinogenicity of
aspartame to humans with high priority.
Finally, the findings from this his
reanalysis provides important validation of the high quality of the scientific
findings produced by the Ramazini Institute. They vindicate Dr. Soffritti,
Dssa. Belpoggi and the Ramazzini Institute team. They restore the honor of the
The Collegium Ramazzini salutes Dr.
Soffritti, Dssa. Belpoggi and all their colleagues in the Ramazzini Institute
on their scientific integrity, their courage, their perseverance, and their
willingness to speak truth to power – even at great personal cost. We are proud
to stand with them.
Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Degli Esposti
D, Lambertini L, Tibaldi E, Rigano A. First experimental demonstration of the
multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to
Sprague-Dawley rats. Environ Health
Perspect. 2006;14 (3):379–85. doi.org/10.1289/ehp.8711.
Tibaldi E, Gnudi F, Panzacchi S, Mandrioli D, Vornoli A, Manservigi M, et
al. Identification of aspartame-induced
haematopoietic and lymphoid tumours in rats after lifetime treatment. Acta Histochem. 2020; 122: 15148. doi.
Landrigan PJ, Straif. Aspartame and
cancer – new evidence for causation. Environmental
Health 2021; 20: 42 doi.org/10.1186/s12940-021-00725-y
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