Aspartame Linked to Leukemia & Lymphoma in Groundbreaking Study

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Each year, Americans consume about 5,250 tons of aspartame in total. 86 percent of this aspartame (4,500 tons) is from the consumption of diet sodas. Diet soda is the largest dietary source of aspartame  in the U.S. A study recently published at the beginning of December 2012 links the consumption of Aspartame to increased risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia. The study was conducted by the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. The study was a follow up after a 22 year period of data collection including frequent dietary and health check ups of the study group.

We have covered the subject of aspartame on several occasions that included findings that deomstrate how aspartame damages the brain. This new study suggests that as little as a single 355ml can of diet soda daily greatly increases the risk for cancers in men and women. It can also increase the risk of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in men. The results of this study forces us to really look at the effects of aspartame as there has never been a more comprehensive, long term study ever done on the topic. It is important to note that this can also reveal many more serious diseases and illnesses as data is observed even further.

The Most Comprehensive Study to Date on Aspartame

This study tracks over two million person-years giving it a huge pile of data to generate results from. 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. It is not just the sample size of this study that makes it impressive, it is also the thoroughness with which aspartame intake was assessed in comparison to previous studies. Over the course of the study, every two years participants were given a detailed dietary questionnaire, and their diets were reassessed every four years. Shockingly, previous studies done on aspartame who revealed no link between aspartame and cancer in humans, only assessed participants’ aspartame intake at one point in time. This poses a major weakness in the accuracy of previous studies.

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)

This is a powerful set of results as it leaves little to ponder about when it comes to the long time talked about risks of aspartame on our health. The results were based on multi-variable relative risk models, all in comparison to participants who drank no diet soda. It is important to note that it still remains unknown why only men drinking higher amounts of diet soda showed increased risk for multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but the continuation of this study may reveal these results later.

Most of the past studies showing no link between aspartame and cancer have been criticized for being too short in duration and too inaccurate in assessing long-term aspartame intake. This new study solves both of those issues. The study in fact shows a positive link to cancer and it should come as no surprise given that a previous best-in-class research study done on animals (900 rats over their entire natural lifetimes) showed strikingly similar results back in 2006. More worrying is the follow up mega-study, which started aspartame exposure of the rats at the fetal stage. Increased lymphoma and leukemia risks were confirmed, and this time the female rats also showed significantly increased breast (mammary) cancer rates. This raises a critical question: will future, high-quality studies uncover links to the other cancers or diseases in which aspartame has been implicated?

My Own Thoughts
I have been researching aspartame and other health related ilnesses for a few years now and have found a lot of different information as it relates to effects of various substances on health. This study stands out from many as it illustrates the importance of conducting research that is of quality and done over time. While we cannot confirm with 100% accuracy that this was the key factor in these ilnesses, we can confirm that it does play a big role. Also, when we look at what exists today as studies that are in favor of Aspartame being safe, we find that there are many weaknesses behind them that would produce poor results in accuracy.

Of course we can always go back to what feels natural and what would make sense when we look at our foods and I think this is something that we dont require  a scientific analysis to observe. Of course this is my opinion but, when we are adding chemicals that are synthetic and created in a lab to our food, it does not reflect naturally occurring elements that we are designed to consume. The human body was not designed to take in these types of substances through nature, which makes perfect sense as to why the majority of chemicals found in foods today have numerous links to serious health affects. This isn’t to say the body can’t handle all synthetics, but instead just shows that we should not be surprised to find out results like this.

If previous research on the subject was not enough, there is now undeniable evidence that suggests we should not be consuming aspartame at all in our diet. Switching over to sugar sweetened soda is also not a good alternative as this study also found that men consuming one or more sugar-sweetened sodas daily saw a 66 percent increase in non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It has become clear that having no soda at all in our diet is the ideal way to go. This would not only remove the aspartame and sugar risks, but it will also help in keeping your body in a more alkaline state.


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  10. C. Haase

    please read the article from FSANZ (see link) & don’t believe articles with sensationalised headlines, it’s called emotional advertising & it works because we are all drawn to stories that promise to “shock” us or “amaze” us only to be led down yet another rabbit hole.

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  12. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.

    I notice how two of the studies cited were from an organisation KNOWN to operate outwith the procedures that constitute scientific inquiry, and the one real study cited actually states clearly that the possibility of the results of that study occuring by chance is too great to be ruled out. Alarmist much? You make this site look like a bunch of stupid people who cannot understand a simple scientific study.

    Secondly, Dr. Garst is not a shill for the aspartame industry. Deal with it.

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  14. D. Crepeau

    As soon as I read “The Shocking Story of How Aspartame Became Legal Read More: and found out Monsanto had a financial interest in Aspartame, And that Pepsi, Coke & Monsanto (along with MANY top companies) are all spending MILLIONS to stop the GMO labeling movement, I made the decision to stop drinking soda or ANY products from these companies.

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  18. j johnson

    This is alarming to me. I was diagnosed last year with AML and I drink about six cans of diet soda a day. Alot to think about…..

    • John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

      Hi J Johnson:

      I appreciate your concern about this ‘claimed’ association, but it should be no worry. Papers like that cited are seriously flawed works of epidemiology, because they fail to even consider personal issues that dramatically bias the results obtained. It is likely the same results would be obtained with fruit juices, because they failed to do the study correctly. No aspartame-critical paper has ever utilized a folate/B12 issue population control; even some scientists just don’t understand how important this issue is. And that more than anything explains the persistence of this aspartame controversy. Any occurrence of leukemia is not an issue with aspartame safety, but is far more likely to reside unfortunately in personal issues like nutritional adequacy and/or personal genetics. I know you and aspartame-critical readers don’t want to hear that, so let me try to explain this further.

      The methanol from aspartame (just like that from fruit juices and other natural sources like apples) provides formaldehyde and formate oxidation products; both, but directly the formate, are vital to the function of the folate-B12 vitamin methylation systems (see and notably the “Metabolism of folic acid” figure midway down the page. The folate system transforms formate into methyl groups with the help of B12 and B12 critical enzymes like methionine synthase and methionine synthase reductase, see

      The problem is that some people are deficient in one or both of these vitamins, but this was not critically recognized until mandated fortification with folate in 1998. However, there is also a human sub-population that is even more deficient in folate for which resolution of their symptoms requires even more folate. These people have genetic folate enzyme polymorphisms, see And they have been shown linked to leukemia in some populations, Up to 40% of some populations have these folate polymorphisms, but most don’t even know it. For more read

      And there are B12-related issues too. Methionine synthase (MTRR) and methionine synthase reductase (MTR), see web links above) are involved in the transfer of a B12-methyl group to homocysteine forming methionine. But MTR has been shown to be a factor in leukemias too, Now if this latter process is hindered, less methionine is made and homocysteine accrues. And that makes the problem even worse, because homocysteine can be quite toxic (see

      Evidence completely exonerating aspartame comes from the considerable association of leukemias with specific individual folate and B12 related enzymes, see 215 references here alone: If you extend the subject to all leukemia,folate there are over 1993 references here, In fact each and every one of the critic suggested ~90 symptoms of aspartame are really issues with folate, B12 biological methylations or are explained by accrual of homocysteine consequent to defects in those methylations.

      John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

      • NotFooledByYou

        I would encourage any of you to Google John E Garst PhD and you’ll see that this “person” is a serial blog commenter who writes the same thing on any blog questioning the safety aspartame. Not to be confused with John F. Garst who is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Georgia. For kicks, I checked his publications on NCBI and I’m not sure there is a John E Garst who’s a working Medicinal Chemist, Pharmacologist, and Toxicologist. There was a JE Garst in Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois in the 70’s and 80’s but that person appears to have retired and I’m doubtful that he is this John E Garst.

        Make your own judgement, dear readers, but personally I reckon that John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Toxicology) has something invested in assuring people that aspartame is safe.

        Also, while I can appreciate someone coming on this board and throwing all sorts of medical sounding jargon at everyone, let’s just ask the question has John E Garst done any 22 year long studies on the effects of aspartame? No. Also, when is the last time a doctor tried to tell you that fruit juice and aspartame laced beverages would produce the same health benefits and risks?

        • Elene

          Right on Friend. He sounded like an industry insider-Troll from the start. I’ve been following info/research on this chemical since soon after it came on the market. So am not about to be hyped up by any marketing ploy/spin.

          • John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

            FYI, I am an Emeritus Professor, retired from the University of Illinois-CU, so no–that is me—and I have never worked for the aspartame or any related industry. I am telling it like it is and like the hundreds of thousands of scientists working for the 90+ regulatory agencies from every relevant country in the world also say and have said for twenty years, including yet again last month the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

            John E. Garst, Ph.D. (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Nutrition)

        • What I find extremely upsetting in regards to comments on science, is from people who don’t understand it. A very large portion of experiments are either backed by bias, done poorly in general or are actually GOOD experiments but the researchers don’t have adequate funding to do a large and random sample size.

          I have sunk the better part of 3 hours looking into aspartame (again, it has been a few years since I’ve kept up with the publications) because a friend was asking questions about the sweetener and adverse effects. I saw John E. Garst post on one of these failed blog posts that was a few years old and did my own digging. Yes he is an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, and he has had some publications and has been cited by others in their own works.

          Moreover, most of these blog posts and rages are from people finding inadequate research with terrible statistics and horrible parameters in regards to the subject samples and sample sizes.
          Go google Biostatistics and school yourself on it for a few hours. Most people can’t understand actual data and therefore can’t decide for themselves if the experiment they are reading about is actually thorough one.

          Not having a background in biology, chemistry, etc puts one at a severe hindrance in understanding our jargon. Chemistry and biology have a lot of big words (so scary!) and it can really seem like someone is making up things. Do some research and actually try to understand oh, catalysts for one. Enzyme uptake. How do our bodies break down these molecules. What do our bodies DO with those molecules. After reading Garst’s blog replies I felt a little brain dead. I was getting myself ramped up into a frenzy about WHY would the FDA approve such a sweetener if it was really going to cause such damage to our bodies.

          Naturally, having had my toxicology class about 4 years ago, it completely slipped my mind that toxicity is related to dosage. Also, fruits and vegetables contain methanol, and the natural pectin in these fruits and veggies actually helps nutralize the methanol (remember DOSAGE. We are around more and ingest more toxic molecules than you realize that do not harm us. Dosage is what makes these little nasty buggers so harmful aka large quantities.)
          I now feel the need to go pick up my text books and refresh myself. My background is more in epidemiology, but a lot of the core classes go hand in hand. He knows what he is talking about, and frankly I’m searching all over the place to find some publications.

          To John E. Garst – I would love to read any publications you may have. I look to expand my knowledge in all the fields in regards to biology. I’d love to pick your brain.

          “Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations. Examples include the double helix in biology and the fundamental equations of physics.” – Stephen Hawking

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