The European Food Safety Authority reaffirmed Tuesday the safety of aspartame, after news of falling diet soda sales in the United States thanks to fears about the artificial sweetener’s side effects.
“Aspartame is safe for consumption by the general population,” the agency declared in statement, citing decades of scientific research “as well as the positions of regulatory agencies around the globe.”
“These experts concluded that aspartame does not cause cancer, harm the brain or nervous system or affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults.”
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported a Wells Fargo study that shows diet soda sales dropped 6.8 percent in the 52 weeks before Nov. 23, while their full-calorie sugar counterparts dropped just 2.2 percent.
Diet soda was added to product lines as a response to obesity concerns. By 2010 these beverages accounted for 31 percent of all soda consumption in the United States, up from 26 percent two decades earlier.
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The recent backlash against diet options may be attributable to media attention to aspartame.
Purdue University professor Susan Swithers published a study in July that showed diet beverages aren’t a good choice for people hoping to lose weight.
“Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain,” Swithers said in a press release.
That study has added to an increasingly popular idea that diet drinks can be harmful. The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) responded with an advertisement telling customers that “the safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies in the last 40 years.”
The artificial sweetener, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar without the same calories, as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1981.