You might think the world doesn’t need a more potent artificial sweetener, but the Ajinomoto Group disagrees.
This Japanese company produces most of the world’s MSG and is also the major supplier of aspartame. It acquired its aspartame business from Monsanto in 2000 for $67M.
They thought that aspartame, possibly the most dangerous sweetener on the market, needed an upgrade. So they added the artificial flavor vanillin to aspartame and developed a “new and improved” version they’ve named Advantame.
The US Food & Drug Administration announced their approval of Advantame last month. Let’s take a look at what is known about this new “high intensity” sweetener.
(High-intensity is now the industry’s preferred term, perhaps to distance themselves from being artificial?)
Here are the reported “benefits” of Advantame:
- It’s a whopping, taste-bud-blasting 20,000 times sweeter than white sugar. By comparison, aspartame, sucralose and saccharin range from 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar. See this comparison chart.
- It’s stable when heated. It has been approved for use in baked goods, soft drinks, chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.
- According to Ajinomoto Group, it has a “clean, sweet taste very similar to aspartame.” A dubious selling point.
According to the FDA, 37 studies — on both humans and animals — were reviewed before the decision to put Advantame on the market was made.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported that in a key cancer study the number of mice that survived to the end of one study was below the FDA’s own recommendations. But that did not stop FDA approval.
Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right
It’s too soon to have reported side effects for this sweetener. But let’s take a look at it’s two components — aspartame and vanillin.
Aspartame is comprised of three toxic chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.
Currently there are 92 categories of complaints filed against aspartame with the FDA.
MedicineNet.com reports that out of 166 studies on aspartame, 100% of those funded by the manufacturer confirmed aspartame’s safety, while 92% of the independently funded studies found it was unsafe.
According to the conservative American Cancer Society: “Claims have been made that aspartame is related to health effects ranging from mild problems such as headache, dizziness, digestive symptoms, and changes in mood, to more serious health issues such as Alzheimer disease, birth defects, diabetes, Gulf War syndrome, attention deficit disorders, Parkinson disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and seizures.”
Vanillin is a synthetic version of the natural flavor vanilla which is extracted from vanilla orchid seeds. The demand for this universally loved flavor has always exceeded production so there have been many processes over the years for manufacturing it artificially.
Currently some vanillin is made from lignin, a byproduct of the paper and wood pulp industries. But most vanillin is made from guaiacol, a petrochemical precursor.
As I was doing research for this article, I found an arrogant and condescending attitude amongst the purveyors of Advantame. Here are some of the sentiments they have publicly expressed:
“… low calorie sweeteners have been criticised by people who, for a variety of reasons, like to unsettle the public about the safety of the foods and drinks they enjoy.” — remark on Ajinomoto Group website
“About the only way this stuff could harm you is if you were run over by a truck that was delivering it.” — Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health
Advantame has also been approved for use in Australia and New Zealand. Final approvals are pending in Japan and by the European Union.
Advantame is a generic term — not a brand name. Once it enters the food supply it almost certainly be given a catchy brand name similar to Sweet and Low, Splenda, or Equal.
So right now I can’t tell you exactly what you’ll need to watch out for. But the best way to avoid this and all other potentially dangerous food additives is to stick with eating “real food.” And if you must eat something in a box or a package, read the label very carefully.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Deane Alban holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and has taught and written on a wide variety of natural health topics for over 20 years. She teaches the best ways to stay mentally sharp for life at her website BeBrainFit.com. Brain fog, “senior moments”, and fuzzy thinking are signs your brain is not working as well as it should. Discover how to nourish your brain and optimize your brainpower — sign up for her email series 21 Days to a Brighter Brain here.