Sweeteners & cancer


This week’s paper comes from a population study but it’s not from the commonly used US Nurses’ Health Study and the US Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. It’s from the French NutriNet-Santé study, which has focused on the examination and reporting of processed food. This makes the study an important one in the field of nutritional epidemiology. Nutritional epidemiology has many limitations: association, not causation; relative not absolute risk; and the healthy person confounder being the major ones. Older studies, such as the US Nurses’ Health Study and the US Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, suffered far greater dietary questionnaire limitations and they tend to have been used for single foods e.g., red meat, whole grains. Examination of an entire group of food – processed food – may elicit some interesting results.

This latest output from the NutriNet-Santé study examined the association between artificial sweeteners and incidence of cancer. The paper was written by Debras et al and it was called “Artificial sweeteners and cancer risk: Results from the NutriNet-Sante´ population-based cohort study” (Ref 1).

The NutriNet-Santé study

The NutriNet-Santé is an ongoing web-based population study, which was launched in France in 2009 to examine the associations between nutrition and health. People in France, over the age of 18, have been recruited online since May 2009 via several media campaigns. All questionnaires have been completed online and people have then been followed up online via their email address (and other contact details, which they are asked to share), ensuring fewer people are lost to follow-up (Ref 2). The study is large – over 100,000 adults are taking part.

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