The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that the artificial sweetener aspartame could cause cancer, particularly cancer in the liver.
The declaration captured the attention of consumers worldwide because since it was introduced into the food supply in 1980, the product has been added to more than 5.000 sugar-free, diet, and low-calorie foods and beverages including Diet Coke, Trident gum, Jell-O, Log Cabin Sugar-Free Syrup, Equal, Crystal Light, and Zero-Sugar Snapple.
It can even be found in health products like toothpaste, chewable vitamins, and cough drops.
However, just hours after the WHO made the announcement, in a rare move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publicly stated they disagree with WHO's classification of aspartame as a possible carcinogenic, largely because of the research the global health organization used to arrive at their conclusion.
The FDA cited "significant shortcomings in the studies" the WHO used, and added, "FDA scientists do not have safety concerns."
The WHO says unsafe levels of aspartame consumption begin at 40 milligrams per kilogram per day, which is the amount in about nine cans of Diet Coke.
Robert Rankin, president of the Calorie Control Council told CBN News "Obviously, that level of consumption is not realistic."
Dr. Samuel Cohen, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center told ABC News, "I think the main thing is that Aspartame is a safe substance. It can be consumed in quite large amounts, much larger than humans generally consume."
This isn't the first time aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have come under fire. For years, doctors have been warning about the impact on the gut microbiome, the balance of good and bad bacteria in our intestines that a growing number of doctors say has an enormous impact on our overall health.
"Those artificial sweeteners cause a separate breed of bacteria to grow inside you," Michael Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic told CBN News.
Studies show people who drink diet soda are at higher risk for dementia, stroke, and even weight gain, than people who don't consume these beverages.
"Here are people consuming diet drinks and gaining weight. And that doesn't seem to make any sense. And yet we see that's happening because of changes in the gut bacteria," neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D. told CBN News, "The risk of developing diabetes is dramatically increased two-fold in people who drink a lot of sugarless beverages."
"There's also a phenomenon that happens called calorie dysregulation that they saw with artificial sweeteners," nutritionist J.J. Virgin. "When you eat something that's got a sweet taste with no calories, your body can't calibrate the degree of sweetness with how many calories. So we tend to overeat."
Most artificial sweeteners have no nutritional value, but neither do many natural sweeteners, like sugar. That's why doctors recommend avoiding both.
"Sweet is a learned taste. If you go off sweet, if you go off sugar, if your brain doesn't get used to it, if your taste buds don't get used to it, you can avoid it," said Dr. Roizen. And that's a much healthier state."