DIETING
May 27, 2014

FDA Approves New Sweetener

Advantame is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar, making it potentially far safer than other sugar substitutes.

People who are trying to lose weight use them. So do those who are trying to cut down on their sugar intake. Diabetics rely on them.

Whether you call them artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, or high-intensity sweeteners, they are a constant source of controversy: How safe are they? Do they help satisfy the craving for sweets, or encourage it? And now a new one has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Advantame is 20,000 times sweeter than sugar, and has been granted approval as a sweetener and flavor enhancer. It's designed for use in many products — baked goods, soft drinks, gum, frosting, frozen desserts, gelatin, pudding, jellies and jams, processed fruits, fruit juices, toppings, and syrups. The new sweetener does not yet have a brand name.

Because advantame is 100 times sweeter than aspartame, it doesn’t take as much to attain the same level of sweetness and so foods containing it will not be required to have a caution statement regarding PKU on the label.

Just as the safety of all the other artificial sweeteners on the market is questioned, the safety of advantame will also likely be suspect. Consumers should know that with the exception of substances “generally recognized as safe,” or (GRAS), the FDA must review all new food additives for safety before they can be sold.

GRAS substances have already been deemed safe by qualified experts as long as the product is used for its intended purpose. Sweeteners made from extracts of the stevia plant and monk fruit fall into this category.

“In determining the safety of advantame, the FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible… harmful effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems,” Captain Andrew Zajac, director of the Division of Petition Review at the FDA, said in a statement.

Made from aspartame and vanillan, advantame’s chemical structure is similar to aspartame. Individuals with a genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) experience difficulty metabolizing an amino acid found in aspartame. Food and beverages must have a warning on the label alerting those with PKU of the presence of the artificial sweetener.

Because advantame is 100 times sweeter than aspartame, it doesn’t take as much to attain the same level of sweetness and so foods containing it will not be required to have a caution statement regarding PKU on the label.

The approval of advantame brings the number of FDA-approved artificial sweeteners to six: saccharin (Sweet‘N Low), aspartame (Equal), acesulfame potassium (Sweet One), sucralose (Splenda), and neotame (Newtame).
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