If you’ve come to rely on your daily Diet Coke to get through the workday (or anything), you might want to consider a new source of afternoon joy. You’ve probably been shamed for drinking it for a few reasons over the years. (Has it turned anyone’s teeth black?) But nothing felt worthy of abandoning the drink…until now. It turns out the artificial sweetener used in it — along with thousands of other beverages and foods — might be cancerous.

According to Reuters, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research branch of the World Health Organization, is getting ready to classify aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization have reviewed the low-calorie sweetener separately. On July 14, both parties are anticipated to declare their choices openly.

Fans of Diet Coke naturally thought about the upcoming disclosure. After all, even among celebrities, the drink has practically achieved cult status. In his home office, actor Ben Affleck reportedly has a fountain that distributes Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.

Here is what we now know about the questioned sweetener, what medical professionals are saying, and how the public reacts while waiting for these results.

Since the 1980s, Aspartame has been a well-known low-calorie artificial sweetener marketed under famous names like Equal. You should only need a small quantity because, according to the FDA, it is about 200 times sweeter than conventional granulated sugar. Nevertheless, some people still need several packets of their coffee.

Although the term may not immediately come to mind, there’s a good chance you’ve used it before, as it has been utilized in more than 6,000 goods globally. This covers many products, including diet sodas, Snapple teas, and drink mixes like Crystal Light. The popular foods chewing gum, sweets, morning cereals, and sugar-free gelatins like Jell-O all include it.

However, several businesses have worked hard to eliminate it from their goods. Pepsi debated the chemical for years before finally deciding against it in 2020 and eliminating it from their beverages. As an alternative artificial sweetener, it now contains “a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium” to give it the taste of traditional cola.

Is it safe to eat aspartame?
Up until this most recent change, it appeared to be so. Both the American Cancer Society and the FDA have approved aspartame as safe.

Federal health authorities claim that something would take a lot to be considered harmful to your health. For instance, a 150-pound adult would need to consume more than 18 cans of zero-sugar soda each day before they began to experience side effects, including headaches, seizures, or even depression.

Aspartame doesn’t affect insulin or blood sugar levels, even in small amounts, according to numerous studies, which may help explain why it’s frequently used as a sugar alternative in foods for diabetics.

But throughout the years, substantial research has been sparked by residual concerns about its safety, and the results are all over the place. Aspartame use, for instance, was linked to a marginally increased risk of developing cancer, according to observational research conducted in France. Other research is less conclusive: According to a report from 2021 that was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, “the results of its long-term use remain difficult to predict.”

What is known about the aspartame declaration made by the WHO?
The process of making the conclusions of the IARC and JECFA committees public will be a significant undertaking, according to Reuters. The WHO last examined aspartame in 1981 and concluded that the recommended daily dosage was 40 mg per kilogram, or 2.2 lbs, of body weight.

These decisions have had a significant effect because they have sparked lawsuits and increased consumer concerns. The IARC declared 2015 that the weed-killing chemical glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.” Then, in 2021, the Supreme Court affirmed a decision that found Bayer accountable for a couple’s cancer after using Bayer’s Roundup weed killer, despite the European Food Safety Authority’s doubts about these results.

Influence has brought with it some legitimate criticism. Some contend that the public may find the IARC’s judgments unclear. The organization generally has four classification levels: Unclassifiable, probably carcinogenic, potentially carcinogenic, and carcinogenic.

Contrary to popular belief, these levels are determined by the strength of the evidence rather than the hazard associated with a chemical. According to Reuters, the intention is to encourage additional studies by designating aspartame as a potential carcinogen.

Why is there retaliation?
Unsurprisingly, Aspartame has already drawn criticism once it was discovered that it may cause cancer. The International Sweeteners Association questioned the IARC’s legitimacy before to its planned decision, claiming that the organization is “not a food safety body and their review of aspartame is not scientifically comprehensive.”

The International Council of Beverages Associations also denounced the leaked paper, which warned that it “could needlessly mislead consumers into consuming more sugar rather than choosing safe no- and low-sugar options.” This is only the most recent setback; last month, the WHO encouraged people to cease using non-sugar sweeteners since they didn’t manage weight.

However, this opposition is not limited to the food business. Pop lovers have vowed to keep drinking the beverage despite the health hazards. “We all pass away. When the day comes, I’ll leave with a cold Diet Coke,” one Twitter user said.