About ten years ago, I was in the hospital for an allergic reaction. Turns out, the only kind of sweetener this body can handle is the full-calorie version — I’m allergic to aspartame. For years, I watched wistfully as my friends enjoyed their Diet Coke without going into anaphylactic shock. I spent many days asking babbling brooks what I’d done to deserve this cross to bear. That is until I heard that the World Health Organization (WHO) planned to deem aspartame “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” As you can imagine, my dark and twisted mind was feeling pretty good about itself. Fortunately for you, I did some research and had to get off my high horse. Because, as long as you’re not eating aspartame in every snack you use to get through your day, you’ll probably be safe from its carcinogenic capacities.

What is aspartame?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used commonly in American foods and drinks. It’s 200 times sweeter than regular sucrose, low-calorie, and doesn’t affect your blood glucose levels (making it a perfect sugar substitute for anyone dealing with diabetes).

Is aspartame carcinogenic?

Thanks to this CBS News article, I learned that if you’re around 150 pounds, it would take drinking 18 cans of Diet Coke daily for you to increase your risk of cancer. Now, although many enjoy their Diet Coke, I have yet to hear of anyone who drinks more than eight cans a day (I’m looking at you, Aunt Cheryl). With that in mind, aspartame is present in tons of different foods and drinks, so you may be consuming much more than you originally thought, especially if you’re living with diabetes. As a result, please limit your exposure to aspartame as much as possible.

Foods that contain aspartame

Generally speaking, foods and drinks labeled diet, zero-calorie, sugar-free, or low-sugar contain aspartame. That means you’ll need to watch out for diet soda, sugar-free soda, low-sugar juices, sugar-free puddings and desserts, sugar-free jams, artificially sweetened gum, cereals, and low-calorie coffee creamers.