Thursday Throughput: Aspartame Edition
[ThTh1] So you may have heard that the artificial sweetener aspartame has been found to be a “possible” carcinogen by the WHO, or specifically the International Agency for Research on Cancer found it to be so. Should you be worried?
The FDA disagrees with IARC’s conclusion that these studies support classifying aspartame as a possible carcinogen to humans. FDA scientists reviewed the scientific information included in IARC’s review in 2021 when it was first made available and identified significant shortcomings in the studies on which IARC relied. We note that JECFA did not raise safety concerns for aspartame under the current levels of use and did not change the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI).
Aspartame is one of the most studied food additives in the human food supply. FDA scientists do not have safety concerns when aspartame is used under the approved conditions. The sweetener is approved in many countries. Regulatory and scientific authorities, such as Health CanadaExternal Link Disclaimer and the European Food Safety AuthorityExternal Link Disclaimer have evaluated aspartame and also consider it safe at current permitted use levels.
That currently permitted level is 40 mg per kg of body weight. For an adult weighing, say, 180 lbs, that would be 3200 mg or about 10-15 cans of diet coke. I think “don’t drink an entire 12 pack of diet soda” is a good rule to live by, no matter what you think of aspartame.
I’ve talked about the IARC before, in the context of glyphosate, which they have classified as a possible carcinogen despite the conclusion of every other regulator body that it’s safe.
Moreover, the IARC’s rep is … well, they think cell phones cause cancer, too. And they’ve been accused of having conflicts of interest with tort firms (the veracity of which I’m finding almost impossible to evaluate).
The IARC divides substances in five groups: Group 1 are definite carcinogens like tobacco. Group 2A are probably carcinogens like meat. Group 2B are possible carcinogens. Group 3 are not classifiable. And group 4 are probably not carcinogens. As of this writing, there is nothing that the IARC puts in the last group. Literally nothing. There is no substance they have evaluated that they have not concluded is a possible carcinogen or can’t be evaluated. This makes their objectivity on the subject a bit suspect.
The Health Nerd ran through the science and gets into some of the nuances about the difference in missions between organizations like the FDA and IARC. And he also points this out:
As I noted, the IARC decision was mostly made on the basis of a potential increased risk from artificial sweeteners for liver cancer. But if you look at the research that underpins that decision, the risk increase is incredibly small. Of the people who drank absolutely no artificially sweetened drinks, about 3/100,000 got liver cancer each year. Of those who drank a can of Diet Coke a day, this risk increased to about 6/100,000, equivalent to a 0.003% increase in absolute terms. That’s so tiny as to be almost entirely meaningless at the individual level.
I think at least a part of what’s driving the coverage here is our assumption that something that tastes good but doesn’t make you fat but somehow be bad for you. And while I understand the guilt reflex, I’m going to continue to consume my 1-2 Cherry Coke Zeros.
[ThTh2] The more we find out about the Oceansgate debacle, the worse it seem to get. Here is a good video breaking down some of the slipshod engineering that went into this thing:
[ThTh3] I don’t know why the New York Times decided it was a good time to rehabilitate spoon-bending fraud Uri Geller’s reputation, but Rebecca Watson is here to break down just how silly their profile is.
[ThTh4] White dwarf stars are the shriveled husks of dead stars like the Sun. They are mostly comprised of carbon and oxygen but have a thin atmosphere of either hydrogen or helium, depending on the white dwarf’s temperature. We’ve now seen a white dwarf that has both with one side appearing to be helium-dominated and one side hydrogen-dominated. This may be a white dwarf that is in transition from one state to another. Or it may be a McDonald’s campaign to bring the McDLT back.
[ThTh5] There’s a book out claiming that Oumuamua, the comet wandered into our solar system from extragalactic space, was an alien artifact. My colleague Jason Wright walks through the arguments presented in favor. I am not convinced at all that his was not a natural object. There’s plenty of parameter space for it to fit in.
[ThTh6] The New York Post reported on a recording of RFK, Jr. claiming that COVID-19 virus spared Jews and Asians while targeting whites and blacks. RFK immediately took to Twitter to scream that he was quoted out of context and it was a private conversation anyway. He claims that he was talking about the US developing “ethnically-targeted” bioweapons and linked to a study he said supported the idea that COVID-19, whether engineered or not, did not hit Jews and Asians as hard because of the furin cleavage site.
However, I find his defense unconvincing. In the first place, the three-year old study he linked was about very specific genetic markers that may increase susceptibility. It said nothing about ethnic groups. Second, COVID-19 did not hit the Jewish or Asian communities lightly. If anything, it hit them harder, in part because ultra-orthodox Jews refused to take the vaccine. Third, you can’t run around, as RFK has, and claim that the furin cleavage site proves it was a bioweapon, then claim the furin cleavage site made it spare Jews and Asians but then turn around and say that you never meant to imply that one and one make two.
Ethnically-targeted bioweapons have been talked about for decades but we’ve never had any indication that they are a real thing. It is worth noting, however, that the idea that COVID-19 was engineered to kill non-Asians has been a staple of Russian propaganda about the virus.
Make of that what you will.
COVID-19 did hit black communities very hard. But the reason for that is much more straight-forward: poverty and lack of access to healthcare.
[ThTh7] And while we’re on the subject, is the COVID vaccine causing turbo-cancer? No. Is it true that we never test vaccines against placebos? Also no. And did the Amish really not die from COVID at all despite not locking down? Again, no.
[ThTh8] The latest breakthrough in quantum computing can match in seconds what would take a supercomputer 47 years.
[ThTh9] The debate on whether there is phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere has been re-opened. This could indicate microbial life or it could indicate something else completely. Only way to know is to send a probe.
[ThTh10] Firecats? Firecats.
When you use thermal imaging-like filter to film your cat, it becomes 🔥
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) July 8, 2023
[ThTh11] Another day, another study shows the BMI is mostly useless.
[ThTh12] I’ve talked before about neutrinos — small particles that are constantly streaming through us but interact with matter so rarely they are incredibly difficult to even detect. Well, the IceCube consortium has now found enough to create a picture of our Galaxy.
[ThTh13] Exoplanets continue to get more and more exotic. The most recent discovery? A planet like Venus whose thick clouds have so much metallic material, it’s almost a mirror.
[ThTh14] What has JWST been up to lately? Oh, nothing. Just producing this stunning image of Saturn.
[ThTh15] A new vaccine for tuberculosis is in phase 3 trials. Let’s hope we can put a big dent in this killer before it comes roaring back.
[ThTh16] Maybe three people will get this.
— Mathieu is @miniapeur on Zuck’s app (@miniapeur) June 26, 2023
[ThT17] How your brain tricks you into thinking things are getting worse.