Sweet. A new artificial no-calorie high-intensity sweetener–an aspartame derivative–has been recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the United States.
“Advantame” (sounds like a cross between flea killer and aspartame) is 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar–the sweetest artificial sweetener heretofore developed.
Like sugar, it is white, in crystal form, flows when you pour it, and easily dissolves in water.
Advantame doesn’t break down when heated, making it an option for use in cooking and baking. The FDA hasn’t approved its use in conjunction with meat and poultry. (The release doesn’t say why.)
The FDA brief says advantame is “stable even at higher temperatures” but studies in Europe reflect otherwise (see below).
Advantame is Similar in Structure to Aspartame.
Like aspartame, the new sweetener contains phenylalanine which is a concern for some people who are allergic to it (a condition called phenylketonuria), however, because it is much sweeter than its controversial cousin, you would use much less.
The FDA has said it is therefore safe for people with phenylketonuria. Also like aspartame, methanol is one of the new sweetener’s ingredients; this is wood alcohol, is not readily metabolized in the human body, and causes oxidative stress.
The European Food Safety Authority reviewed advantame and approved it for use in the European Union. In its summary, however, there are still some red flags:
“The Panel noted that there is an indication of advantame instability in acidic beverages and thermally treated foods…Advantame is rapidly but poorly absorbed and the main excretion route is via faeces. The Panel concluded that advantame does not raised[sic] concern with regards to genotoxicity and carcinogenicity. The critical effect observed in animal studies was maternal toxicity (gastrointestinal disturbances) in the prenatal developmental toxicity study in rabbits…The Panel noted that in several non-consecutive batches of the final product, the levels of platinum and palladium, residues from the catalysts used in the catalytic hydrogenation process, could amount to 1.7 and 5.3 mg/kg, respectively, and therefore, the Panel considered that a maximum limit for palladium and for platinum should be included in the specifications…Following oral dosing of radiolabelled advantame, radioactivity is excreted mainly in the faeces, with urinary excretion representing a minor route…the Panel considered that the high variability and the lack of clear underlying mechanism did not permit such a clear conclusion on accumulation or non-linearity in kinetics…The Panel noted the changes in several parameters, indicative of an altered function of the immune system in the 13-week study in rats. The Panel noted that the repeated observation of effects on thymus and lymphocytes throughout the different subchronic studies in rats and dogs may be indicative of an effect on the immune system following exposure of laboratory animals to high dietary doses of advantame[emphasis added].”
There are contradictory statements in the report regarding accumulation; it seems that at some dosage levels it does.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest will be “carefully reviewing the studies on advantame”. Posted on their website is their current primary concern:
“…in a key cancer study in mice, the number of mice that survived to the end of the study was below FDA’s own scientific recommendations, and is therefore inadequate to provide confidence in the safety of a chemical likely to be consumed by millions of people.”
Maybe as a society we should kick the sugar addiction and obviate the “need” for compounds such as advantame.
All this is in direct opposition to a statement by Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, “About the only way this stuff could harm you is if you were run over by a truck that was delivering it.”
He further scoffed at those who would find something wrong with advantame and recommend a natural alternative, “After all, we all need to make a living.”
So true–that would explain how chemicals such as these make it to market and stay there, even after human health issues are documented. May we be the very first: there are healthy natural alternatives that aren’t toxic.