Bella Italia: The Soffritti Aspartame Study

The Europeans have the United States beat hands-down when it comes to respectable research on chemical food additives. Why? Well, I have MY opinions, and it depends upon with whom you speak.

Many scientists at prestigious American universities will tell you they cannot get grants for continued research on aspartame or Splenda®, or their department heads have been told to drop all discussions on the topic. Some will say aspartame research isn't worth the effort because they cannot get published in American scientific journals. Others claim the research centers constructed by the large corporations, such as Duke University's Searle Research Center, were designed with managed research as a construction proviso.

So, we've crossed the pond for some of the most progressive and highly respected academic research on aspartame currently performed. Dr. Morando Soffritti of the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center, European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences, has performed such esteemed work. This research, nonetheless, is not surprising news to the independent research scientists in the United States who studied the dangers of aspartame over 30 years ago. (See original report) ( Dr. Soffritti honored)

Dr. John Olney, Washington School of Medicine, Dr. Richard Wurtman, MIT, Dr. Diana Dow-Edwards, SUNY New York, and Dr. Woodrow Monte, Arizona State University are but a few of these renown aspartame researchers. Their laboratory studies resulted in findings such as holes (lesions) in the brains of lab rats fed aspartame in the early 1970s, deformed fetuses and lab pups born with lower IQs from aspartame consumed in utero, nerve damage, seizures, and death as a result of aspartame administered during research studies performed in The United States.

But this research has been pushed back from the public eye receiving little attention. Meanwhile, corporate research and advertisers have financially pressed on, harder and louder, than the independent science. Not so in Europe these days...

The Soffritti Study is the most recent experimental demonstration of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in feed to Sprague-Dawley rats. The primary scientists performing this study are Drs. Morando Soffritti, Fiorella Belpoggi, Davide Degli Esposti, Luca Lambertini, Eva Tibaldi, and Anna Rigano1. The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) provided a second opinion on the research results, and helped in the final statistical analysis. Each of the original authors of the study defends they did not have competing financial interests in relation to the submitted article, "as has been expressed in other aspartame studies," they write.

The results of this mega-experiment indicate aspartame is a multipotential carcinogenic agent, even at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg b.w. (milligrams per kilograms per body weight), much less than the current ADI (Average Daily Intake) for humans in Europe (40 mg/kg b.w.) and in the United States (50 mg/kg b.w.). On the basis of these research results, the Italian research team has recommended a re-evaluation of the present guidelines on the use and consumption of aspartame as "urgent and cannot be delayed."

Aspartame was administered with feed to 8 week-old Sprague-Dawley rats (100-150/sex/group - number/gender/groups) at concentrations of 100,000; 50,000; 10,000; 2,000; 400; 80 and 0 ppm (parts per million). The treatment lasted until natural death, at which time all deceased animals underwent complete necropsy (autopsy). Histopathological evaluations (the study of body tissues relating to disease) of all pathological lesions and of all organs and tissues collected from the laboratory specimens were routinely performed on each animal of all experimental groups.

The results of the study show aspartame causes:
1) An increased incidence of malignant tumor-bearing animals with a positive significant trend in males and females, in particular those females treated at 50,000 ppm

2) An increase in lymphomas and leukemias with a positive significant trend in both males and females, in particular in females treated at doses of 100,000, 50,000, 10,000, 2,000, 400 ppm

3) A statistically significant increased incidence with a positive significant trend of transitional cell carcinomas of the renal pelvis and ureter (urethra through the bladder), and their precursors (dysplasias) in females treated at 100,000, 50,000, 10,000, 2,000 and 400 ppm

4) An increased incidence of malignant schwannomas of peripheral nerves with a positive trend in males

In this particular study, the number of animals per sex per group was much greater, allowing a more thorough and reliable statistical analysis. Secondly, unique to the Italian experiment, the lab rodents were not killed at the typical 110 weeks of age, but rather were observed until their natural deaths to allow the aspartame to fully express its carcinogenic potential.

"Had we stopped the experiments at 110 weeks of age," writes Dr. Soffritti, "we would most likely never have demonstrated the carcinogenicity of important industrial compounds."

The Italian study has scientifically shown aspartame is a multipotential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects are evident at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg b.w., much less than the current ADI for humans in Europe (40 mg/kg b.w.) and in the United States (50 mg/kg b.w.).

The study also demonstrates the results of carcinogenicity bioassays in rodents are consistent predictors of human cancer risks2. The results of the study call for an urgent re-examination of the present guidelines on the use and consumption of aspartame. "The decision to use experimental data to protect public health is important," state the researchers, "as the time span of widespread aspartame use is still too brief to have produced solid epidemiologic data."

"Moreover," they add, "it is unlikely that sufficient epidemiological data will be available in the near future, given the difficulty of finding a control group that has not been exposed to this widely diffused compound."

For the complete research text, visit this link.


1 M Soffritti, F Belpoggi, DD Esposti, L Lambertini, E Tibaldi, and A Rigano. DOI,10.1289/ehp.8711. Available at http://dx.doi.org/. Online 17 November 2005.
2 Huff. 1999; Tomatis et al. 1989; Rall 1995.

Posted February 2006 | Permanent Link

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