NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — In this week’s episode of FUELED, we explore the World Health Organization’s announcement to classify aspartame as a possible carcinogen. Understand what it means for your health, discover which common products contain aspartame, and explore healthier alternatives to keep your diet nutritious and sweet.

For a deeper dive:

  • Listen to Molly’s podcast on the World Health Organization’s classification of aspartame as a class 2b carcinogen | link here
  • World Health Organization: updated Aspartame hazard and risk assessment results released |
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest: Summary of Aspartame & Safety Concerns |

The Rundown 

Aspartame (Equal™) is an artificial, chemically-derived sweetener widely used in food and drink products for more than 40 years, including soft drinks, chewing gum, sugar-free Jell-o, ice cream, yogurt, and more.

Studies over the past few decades (human and animal studies) suggest a possible association between aspartame and risk of some cancers, including liver cancer, lymphoma and leukemia.

Last month, the World Health Organization announced a new classification of aspartame as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’, listing it as a class 2B carcinogen.

Molly’s recommendation: Limit our consumption of aspartame-sweetened products, either by dialing back on frequency and/or volume, or – preferably – finding alternatives that do not contain artificial sweeteners.

Aspartame Alternatives

Diet soft drinks (think Diet Coke) are one of the top sources of aspartame in our diets.

Instead, try:

=> Stevia-sweetened soft drinks like Zevia (available in ‘Cola’ and a variety of flavors)

=> Topo Chico or other sparkling water, with dark cherry extract or flavor drops (see below) – fans of this combo say it tastes like a Dr. Pepper (or Diet Dr. Pepper). Or, Virgil’s Black Cherry Sparkling Soda, available at natural foods stores.

Crystal Light is sweetened with aspartame, artificially colored with food dyes like red 40, blue 1 and/or yellow 5.

Instead, try:

=> True Lemon Crystallized Juice Packets – in flavors like lemonade, limeade and ice tea

=> Stur – flavored water drops and stick packs

=> Ultima Electrolyte Replenisher – stick packets

Sugar Free Chewing Gum like Extra chewing gum is often sweetened with aspartame

Instead, try:

Pur or Simply Gum – both sweetened with xylitol, not aspartame [note: Trident is sweetened with xylitol, but also still contains artificial sweetener sucralose]

Equal Packets – contain aspartame, also artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium

Instead, try:

Monkfruit packets or Stevia packets – both are intense sweeteners similar to aspartame, yet plant-based and natural, not chemically created.

Sugar-Free Jello is sweetened with aspartame and artificially colored with food dyes

Instead, try:

Simply Delish plant-based (and gelatin-free) Jell-o style dessert


FUELED Wellness + Nutrition is powered by Healthy Portions Meal Co. Learn more about the variety of Eat Fit options at Healthy Portions Meal Co, proud sponsor of FUELED Wellness + Nutrition with Molly on WGNO. 


Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.

Stay updated with the latest news, weather, and sports by downloading the WGNO app on the Apple or Google Play store and subscribing to the WGNO newsletter.

Latest Posts