Red meat and drinks with aspartame are a dangerous combination for health
Aspartame, an artificial sweetener widely used in some soft drinks, other food products and even medicines, is “possibly” carcinogenic to humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated yesterday, although without changing the daily dose considered safe. .
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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO body in charge of identifying the carcinogenic potential of consumer substances, has concluded, after studying the available scientific evidence, that this sweetener may have the ability to cause cancer. Thus, the experts, who met from June 6 to 13, concluded that the sweetener “may be carcinogenic to humans”, which includes it in group 2B of the IARC classification.
Aspartame is widely used as a sweetener to sweeten beverages.
The compounds or physical factors evaluated by the IARC are classified into four groups based on the existing scientific evidence on carcinogenicity.
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Group 1: “Carcinogenic to humans”. There is enough evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer in humans.
Group 2A: “Probably carcinogenic to humans.” There is strong evidence that it can cause cancer in humans, but it is currently inconclusive.
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Group 2B: “Possibly carcinogenic to humans”. There is some evidence that it can cause cancer in humans, but it is currently far from conclusive.
Group 3: “Unclassifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans”. There is currently no evidence that it causes cancer in humans.
Group 4: “Probably not carcinogenic to humans.” There is strong evidence that it does not cause cancer in humans.
Regarding Group 1, the cataloged agent is carcinogenic to humans. Thus, the circumstance of its exposure implies a carcinogenic risk for humans. This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. Exceptionally, an agent may be placed in this category when there is less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans but there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals and strong evidence in exposed humans that the agent (mixture) acts through a specific mechanism. relevant to carcinogenicity. Examples include asbestos, benzene, and ionizing radiation.
Aspartame is found in light drinks, food and medicines (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni//File Photo)
In Group 2 are categories A and B: “This category includes agents, mixtures and exposure circumstances for which, at one extreme, the degree of evidence of carcinogenicity in humans is almost sufficient. Agents, mixtures, and exposure circumstances are assigned to Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans) or Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) based on epidemiological and experimental criteria, evidence of carcinogenicity, and other relevant data. says the WHO.
Thus, in group A “the agent is probably carcinogenic to humans. This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. And in group B, the agent is possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This category is used for agents, mixtures, and exposure circumstances for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.
Regarding Group 3, the agent is unclassifiable as to its carcinogenicity in humans”. This category is most commonly used for agents, mixtures, and exposure circumstances for which evidence of carcinogenicity is inadequate in humans and inadequate or limited in experimental animals. A food may be placed in this category when there is strong evidence that the mechanism of carcinogenicity in experimental animals does not operate in humans.
And in the last one, Group 4, the agent is probably not carcinogenic to humans.” This category is used for agents or mixtures for which there is evidence to suggest a lack of carcinogenicity in humans and experimental animals.
WHO did not change the recommended daily allowance for aspartame
IARC classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on limited evidence for cancer in humans (specifically, hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a type of liver cancer). There, too, there was limited evidence of cancer in experimental animals and limited evidence regarding possible mechanisms for causing cancer.
The fact that the WHO has classified aspartame in group 2B means that it is the penultimate step in its hazard identification pyramid: this means that the evidence is very limited and, although safety is not a concern at the doses that are commonly used , potential harmful effects have been described.
However, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which is in charge of specifying these risks in the population and establishing an acceptable daily intake dose, has also evaluated the available evidence and has decided to maintain the recommendation for acceptable daily intake that I already had: 40 milligrams per kilo of weight per day.
Many diet sodas contain aspartame (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Aspartame, which is up to 200 times sweeter than sugar, is in thousands of products. It is used as a table sweetener or to sweeten low-calorie soft drinks, chewing gum, jellies, breakfast cereals, yogurt, ice cream, toothpaste, or in some drugs. JECFA evaluated the safety of this substance in 1981 and established the maximum recommended intake at 40 milligrams per kilo of weight per day: below that amount, the intake of this substance was safe.
“Evaluations of aspartame have indicated that while safety is not a major concern at commonly used doses, potential effects have been described that need to be investigated by more and better studies,” explained Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of the WHO Department of Nutrition and Food Safety. “Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Every year, 1 in 6 people die of cancer. Science is continually expanding to assess potential initiating or facilitating factors for cancer, in the hope of reducing these numbers and the human cost.”
The WHO classified red meat as probably carcinogenic (Fick)
In October 2015, the WHO issued a report where the consumption of red meat was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (group 2A). The same document referred to the consumption of processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” (group 1), because there is sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer and to a lesser extent (associations) for stomach cancer.
Given the social alarm generated, three days later, the WHO issued a statement in which it advised the population to moderate the consumption of this type of meat in order to reduce the risk of cancer, and indicated that this recommendation confirms the warning he issued more than a decade ago, when he advised a moderate consumption of processed meat to reduce cancer risk, on the basis that data available at the time suggested that a high consumption of corned meat and red meat probably increases the risk of cancer colorectal.
That IARC report asked the population to moderate the consumption of meat, not to stop consuming it, since meat is an important source of important nutrients that it contains in high amounts (eg proteins, which are also of high value biological) and highly bioavailable (they are better absorbed than from vegetable sources, for example iron, zinc, vitamin B12).
The consumption of red and processed meats is associated with an increased risk of various chronic diseases
However, red meat and processed meat may also contain, to a greater or lesser extent, a series of compounds whose intake is associated with an increased risk of various chronic diseases (eg, cardiovascular disease, cancers), such as saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, salt, nitrites, etc., which are naturally in meat or are added or formed during processing or cooking.
The IARC defines red meat as unprocessed mammalian muscle meat (eg, beef, veal, pork, lamb, horse, goat), including ground or frozen meat, and processed meat, such as meat that has been transformed by salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes with the aim of increasing flavor or improving its conservation. Most processed meat contains pork or beef, but it can also contain other red meat, poultry, offal (eg liver) or by-products (eg blood) and as examples we can cite sausages, ham (serrano and York), corned beef, jerky, meat-based sauces.
Red meat is usually eaten cooked, like many meat products, as this process improves digestibility and palatability, but it can also lead to the formation of carcinogenic compounds (eg heterocyclic amines). [AHC]polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [HAP]nitrosocompounds [ej. nitrosaminas]), to a greater or lesser extent depending mainly on the type of cooking. Those that involve high temperatures (above 150 ºC), for long periods of time and in direct contact with the flame or a hot surface, are those that favor a greater production of AHC and PAH.
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