The products you didn't know contained aspartame

The products you didn’t know contained aspartame, from mouthwash to cough medicine

  • Vitamin gummies, sachets of paracetamol and cough sweets contain aspartame
  • The sweetener is set to be listed as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ by WHO
  • READ ALSO:  Is this the beginning of the end for low-calorie food and drink?

A sweetener that is set to be listed as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ can be found in thousands of everyday products, MailOnline can reveal. 

Aspartame is added to low calorie, sugar free foods and even medicines to make them more palatable.

The affected products range from diet fizzy drinks and chewing gum to vitamin gummies and cough remedies.

But the sweetener is set to be listed as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ in a World Health Organization reclassification, according to insiders. It follows a major safety review into the artificial sugar replacement involving 1,300 studies. 

MailOnline has detailed which of Britain’s best loved brands contain the hidden sweetener, including Müllerlight, Lemsip and Halls.

Thousands of products contain artificial sweetener aspartame, from mouthwash and vitamin gummies to yoghurt and squash

Sachets of paracetamol such as Lemsip Max Cold & Flu Lemon and Boot’s own Max strength cold & flu relief lemon flavour, both contain aspartame. 

It’s also what gives sugar free cough sweets their taste. 

Halls sugar free mentholyptus cherry flavour, sold in the likes of Tesco and Boots is also flavoured with the sweetener. 

Supplements including Tesco’s chewable vitamin C, Morrison’s orange flavour chewable vitamin C and Boot’s vitamin C orange flavour chewable tablets also list the artificial sweetener in their ingredients.

Aspartame can also be found in some mouthwashes. 

For example, Care antiseptic mouthwash in aniseed flavour contains the artificial sweetener.

Famous examples that contain aspartame are soft drink giant Coca-Cola’s diet sodas, Diet Coke and Coke Zero as well as sugar-free gums like Extra’s

Aspartame, which was first developed in the 60s, is said to be about 200 times sweeter than sugar. 

That’s why many diet and low calorie or sugar drinks and foods contain it. 

Yogurts marketed as being a healthier, low calorie and low fat option also contain the ‘potentially carcinogenic’ sweetener. 

Müllerlight yogurts, advertised as being only 99 calories and containing no added sugar, are sweetened using aspartame.

Similarly, Lindahls yogurts, sold in UK supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, also contain the sweetener. 

The brand, which sells several flavours of high protein yoghurts in white chocolate, vanilla and raspberry, is made with low amounts of sugar with aspartame to make it sweeter. 

Other famous examples that contain aspartame are soft drink giant Coca-Cola’s diet sodas — Diet Coke and Coke Zero — as well as sugar-free gums like Extra’s. 

But it is also found in Options hot chocolate and some brands of squash including the no added sugar Ribena.

Aspartame what you need to know as reports say WHO could declare it a cancer-risk

Reports suggest the World Health Organization could declare aspartame as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ meaning it increases the risk of developing cancer.

What is aspartame?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that was first developed in the 60s and is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.

This means less is needed gram per gram than sugar to achieve the same sweet result, making products that contain it have fewer overall calories.

Unlike sugar it also does not raise blood-sugar levels and thus can be used as alternative source of sweetness for diabetics.

Chemically it is made up of three substances aspartic acid (40 per cent), phenylalanine (50 per cent) and methanol (10 per cent).

What is it found in?

In a wide variety of products that market themselves as being ‘diet’ or ‘sugar-free’.

The most famous examples are soft drink giant Coca-Cola’s diet sodas, Diet Coke and Coke Zero as well as sugar-free gums like Extra’s.

Other examples include low fat yogurts. 

Is there aspartame in Coke Zero and Pepsi Max too?

Yes. Both products list aspartame in their ingredients list.

Other soft drink brands like some Fanta flavours, Lucozade and Dr Pepper also contain the artificial sweetener.

What are its dangers?

Aspartame has been linked to a host of general medical issues including headaches, dizziness and stomach upsets.

However blind trials, where participants don’t know if the product they consume has the sweetener, have failed to replicate this.

But there have been broader health concerns for years, including that they cause cancer, alter the gut biome, cause depression, and paradoxically even contribute to obesity by increasing people’s appetites.

However, health and food regulators have repeatedly declared them safe to use following ‘a rigorous safety assessment’.

There is one exception, which is for people with phenylketonuria, a rare inherited condition. 

People with phenylketonuria cannot process phenylalanine, an amino acid that is one of the building blocks of aspartame.

If people with phenylketonuria consume phenylalanine it can build up in their blood eventually damaging their vital organs. 

It’s for this reason that aspartame must be listed as an ingredient on products that contain it.  

Only about one in 10,000 people have the condition.  

What does the potential ruling mean?

If confirmed it would see the WHO body, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), link aspartame consumption to cancer.

However, there are several degrees of the strength of the cancer risk it could be given.

According to reports it could be listed as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ a status shard by substances like Aloe vera extract, the metal lead, and several colouring agents. 

For comparison the IARC has declared red meat as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, one stage above the status aspartame could be given.

However, even if found to be ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to humans an individual’s risk could vary immensely.

The IARC establishes its rating based on evidence linking a substance to cancer, not the actual risk itself. 

This would be determined by a separate body, the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Expert Committee on Food Additives, who would provide advice on individual consumption levels alongside national health bodies.

In theory, this could see the NHS, for example, advise a healthy limit of consumption of products containing aspartame, similar to those it does for red and processed meat.

More broadly an IARC ruling on aspartame’s cancer risk could see consumer backlash, with customers shunning products containing them over cancer fears.

Similar boycotts have occurred from other IARC rulings.

This could lead to companies changing the formulation of their products.

Could this see products like Diet Coke be given a cancer warning?

Unlikely. Such rules are left up to individual countries.

But no similar warnings have been placed on red or processed meats in the UK despite stronger links to cancer being found according to past IARC rulings.

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