Sugar Substitutes: Advantame

This week, I wrap up my series on nonnutritive sweeteners. I hope that these posts have been helpful to you in some way, especially if you use artificial sweeteners and have been wondering about the “best” choice for you. The last sweetener on the list that I’ll focus on is advantame. You probably don’t know too much about it at this point; it was just approved by the FDA last year. (Neotame is another nonnutritive sweetener, but because it’s not widely used commercially and isn’t available as a tabletop sweetener, I figured it’s probably not worth mentioning at this time.)

What is advantame?
Advantame is a new high-intensity sweetener that the FDA has deemed safe to be used as a tabletop sweetener and a flavor enhancer in food (except for meat and poultry). It’s made by Ajinomoto, a manufacturer of food additives, including MSG. Interestingly, advantame has also been approved as an artificial flavor. Advantame is a water-soluble, crystalline white powder made from aspartame and vanillin, which is basically an artificial version of vanilla extract.


This new sweetener is extremely sweet: about 20,000 times sweeter than sugar and 100 times sweeter than aspartame (and you thought Equal was sweet!). Because advantame is heat stable, it can be used in cooking and baking. It contains no calories or carbs and supposedly has a clean, sugar-like taste with no aftertaste. The manufacturer’s intent is that advantame will be used to partly replace sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other nonnutritive sweeteners in foods and beverages. Of note, advantame has also been approved for use in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and Japan.

What are the concerns about consuming advantame?
According to the FDA, advantame is safe for human consumption, as evidenced by 37 animal and human studies. These studies were designed to look at possible reproductive, cancer-causing ,and neurological side effects. Not surprisingly, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), who has commented on all of the nonnutritive sweeteners, raised an objection about advantame being declared safe. CSPI sent a letter to the FDA in June of 2014 (one month after advantame was approved), declaring that two of the key studies used to assess safety were “significantly flawed and provide an inadequate basis for ensuring safe use of the ingredient.” In particular, CSPI voiced concern about one study in which a significant number of mice died after being given advantame. They also mention that the FDA’s own biostatistician had expressed concern about this, raising the issue that the death of the mice compromised the study’s ability to determine if advantame could cause late-developing tumors. CSPI also claims that a study involving rats was compromised because weaker and abnormal rats were excluded from the study, leading to biased outcomes. Nonetheless, advantame has been approved.

It’s important to point out that advantame is made with aspartame, a sweetener that must be avoided by those who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder. However, because advantame is so sweet and therefore only small amounts are needed to provide sweetness, the FDA claims that no warning label for people with PKU is necessary on this product.

How much advantame is safe to use?
The ADI (acceptable daily intake of advantame is 32.8 mg/kg body weight per day. To give you some perspective, you would have to consume 4,920 packets of an advantame tabletop sweetener to reach that amount. Given that, perhaps this sweetener really does have some merit and will prove to be highly popular. We’ll have to wait and see.

No doubt, we’ll see other nonnutritive sweeteners on the market in the future. It’s always good to have choices, but on the other hand, there seems to be an underlying issue of safety. And as time goes on, more issues regarding the impact of these sweeteners on health are likely to surface, as well, including the ongoing debate as to whether they really do affect appetite and body weight. For now, stay informed and choose a sweetener that you feel is best suited to you.

Blame can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks you encounter in living with diabetes. Bookmark and tune in tomorrow to learn how to move past it from Type 2 diabetes veteran Martha Zimmer.

  • Hi, I’d like to share my video with you. Here I speak about the Effects of Artificial Sweetners on Your Body.

    • Victor Lage de Araujo

      Youu´re right Dr Kosmides!

      Agave shouldn´t be considered as an Artificial Sweetener for Diabetes (and neither as healthy for any people too) for the exact reasons you´ve mentioned.

      Xylitol, on the other side, contains about 40% less calories then Glucose, produces a significantly lesser effect on blood Glucose, and has a GI (Glucose Index) of about 7 – 10% of that of Glucose. These confer it some advantages. It can be considered for weight control diets. While it might be of use for Type 2 diabetes, we have other better options for that (And the use of Xylitol should not bee entirely free in that context, neither for Type 1 Diabetes).

      While Xylitol is not metabolized by the bacterial flora of the human mouth, its use has been considered as a possibility in the prevention of bad breath and cavities; meanwhile, the required calculated dosis would mean continuously chewing Xylitol-containing gum throughout all day, which might not be a healthy habit from other standpoints. Therefore, its use in sweets and gums should be considered mainly as a flavour enhancing chemical.


    My major problem with all non-nutritive sweeteners is that manufacturers tend to use too much, resulting in a cloying, overly sweetened product, usually with a strong aftertaste. A perfect example would be diet sodas. Diet Coke is much sweeter than corn-syrup sweetened Coke. Coke sweetened with sugar is the least sweet of any of them. I looked into this and found that -at least as far as soft beverages go- market research indicates that people who buy artificially sweetened drinks prefer them extremely sweet. In response to this, rather than mimic the taste of “original” product, the diet version is nearly always formulated at an enhanced level of sweetness.
    When you factor in the effects some artificial sweeteners appear to have on diabetics and the obese, it may turn out that we were better off with sugar, but in restricted quantities. (Much like we found with hydrogenated fats -we were better off with butter and lard.)

    • I have drunk Diet Coke and regular Coke. The regular coke is sickening sweet but diet Coke does not taste too sweet.

      • Victor Lage de Araujo

        You’re right; while there is a potency relationship among Artificial Sweeteners and Glucose as to sugaring potency, this is based in population studies and — while some people may find products using these products too sweet, other pople might not. This is due to individual variations on the sensors for sweet tast as well as particular taste preferences.

    • mzso

      Artificial sweeteners have no particular effect on obese and diabetics. Unless you count the “not-eating-sugar effect”, which you shouldn’t.

      • RAWLCM

        Citation: Study published in the science journal Nature:
        Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

        Jotham Suez Tal Korem David Zeevi Gili Zilberman-Schapira Christoph A. Thaiss Ori Maza David Israeli Niv Zmora Shlomit Gilad Adina Weinberger Yael Kuperman Alon Harmelin Ilana Kolodkin-Gal Hagit Shapiro Zamir Halpern Eran Segal & Eran Elinav

        Nature aop, (2014) | doi:10.1038/nature13793.

        • Victor Lage de Araujo

          Greetings all.

          I am both a Phisycian (Clinical Pathologist) and Type 2 diabetic. I have examined this paper in a scienific point of view.

          While it was carried out in mice (and therefore is not necessarily applicable to higher mammals and humans), the study presents some methodological failures, inasmuch as it isn´sufficient to establish causality, and its conclusions aren´t applicable to all artificial sweeteners in the same way (while having not specifically performed the studies to the end of the proposed methodologies, in referring to all of them).

          From the scientific stanpoint, I doubt that all the (chemically very different) Artificial Sweeteners do have precisely the same effect on intestinal flora, even of mice; besides, the concept of “microbioma” (=The microbial flora of a human or other animal), its alterations through the use of drugs, and its effect on (human or mice) health is highly complex and, hasn´t still been sufficiently studied to determine such an effect as probable or even possible.

          The syudy didn´t address such issues as other dietary variation (neither for mice nor of course for men), such as the use of probiotics and prebiotics, and other dietary elements.
          The study has not been replicated, up to now (today is 2016/05/24).

          Al considering, I tend to believe its conclusions don´t affect the known facts that Artificial Sweeteners in use have been granted the status of GRAS (=Generally Admitted As Safe) by FDA for human use (exceptions made for some very specific like: Phenylcetonuria, a rare disease — when it comes to products containing Aspartic Acid — and specific allergic reactions and intolerance).

          This study alone is far from proving that the use of Artificial Sweeteners bring harm to human microbioma, let alone thereby cause Glucose intolerance.

          • RAWLCM

            Full disclosure: Which artificial sweetener maker do you work for?