Is This More-Dangerous-than-Aspartame Sweetener Hiding in Your Food?
Posted By Dr. Mercola | March 28 2012
By Dr. Mercola
One of the more recent toxic additions to our food supply is the artificial sweetener called Neotamei.
In the European Union, where it was approved as a flavor enhancer as of November 2010, it is known by its “E number,” E961ii.
Made by NutraSweet (a former division of Monsanto and the original manufacturer of aspartame), neotame is 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar, and about 30 times sweeter than aspartame.
It’s based on the aspartame formula—despite the fact that 80 percent of all FDA complaints pertain to adverse reactions from aspartame.
Neotame is essentially aspartame plus 3,3-dimethylbutyliii--the presence of which ends up reducing the production of phenylalanine, which allegedly makes it safe for those suffering from phenylketonuria (PKU).
(Hence neotame does not need to bear a PKU warning label like aspartame.)
Unfortunately, it may actually be an even more potent and dangerous neurotoxin, immunotoxin and excitotoxin than aspartame.
Proponents of neotame claim that increased toxicity is of no concern because less of it is needed to achieve the desired effect.
Still, Monsanto's own pre-approval studies of neotame revealed adverse reactions, and there were no independent studies that found neotame to be safe.
On August 16, 2000, the law firm of Hartman & Craven filed comments on the neotame docket pertaining to the lack of safety data submitted in support of neotameiv, stating in part:
“A food additive petition has been submitted to the FDA for the artificial sweetener neotame. In that petition, the sponsor claims the data presented demonstrate that the compound produces no adverse effects at a dose of 1000 mg/kg/day in the rat. The sponsor also claims that the product should be safe for patients with diabetes. A review of the data submitted to the FDA does not support these conclusions.
In fact, no safe human usage level can be determined based on the submitted data. The animal experimental evidence indicates a toxic effect on growth. The clinical evidence raises concerns about glucose control in patients with diabetes.
Searches for an explanation resolving the adverse findings leave no clear acceptable answers that would insure the safety of the public but does stimulate speculation on questions relating to possible liver effects.”
Is Neotame Allowed in Organics?
While some writers have made the claim that neotame is allowed in organic foods, there does not appear to be any supporting evidence for this. Ditto for the rumor that it doesn’t have to be listed on the label. For example, according to a recent article on Sott.netv:
“Neotame was approved by the FDA for general use in July 2002 ... The FDA loosened all labeling requirements for Neotame as part of a large-scale effort to make it a near-ubiquitous artificial sweetener, to be found on the tabletop, in all prepared foods, even in organics. It simply does not have to be included in the ingredient list.”
The Cornucopia Institute wrote a rebuttal to this internet rumor last year, statingvi:
“Organic foods cannot contain synthetic additives, unless these additives have been petitioned and approved to appear on the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances (7 CFR 205.605). Emily Brown Rosen, Standards Specialist at the USDA’s National Organic Program, writes about neotame: “For organic food, all additives must appear on the National List.” Neotame has never been petitioned or approved for inclusion on the National List, and therefore cannot legally be added to organic foods.
We see no evidence, and see no reason to suspect, that any organic certifying agents would allow organic food manufacturers to violate the federal standards by adding this synthetic sweetener.
Moreover, as a direct food additive, neotame must be listed on the ingredients label, contrary to suggestions that this could be added to food in a stealth-like manner (21 CFR 101.100). We have not seen any evidence to suggest that neotame is being added covertly to organic foods. Not only would organic manufacturers be breaking the law by adding this synthetic sweetener to organic foods, they would also be breaking the law by not including Neotame on the ingredient label.”
Why is Neotame Dangerous?
That said, my recommendation for neotame is similar to that for aspartame, which is: avoid it at all costs if you care about your health. Neotame is like aspartame on steroids, so while you want to avoid both, neotame appears to be more toxic. One way of avoiding all artificial sweeteners is to purchase foods bearing the USDA 100% Organic label. I don’t believe there’s any reason to suspect organic foods will contain neotame.
I’ve previously expounded on the many health dangers of aspartame, and all of those dangers apply equally to neotame. But as if aspartame wasn't bad enough, NutraSweet “improved" the aspartame formula by adding 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde, which blocks enzymes that break the peptide bond between aspartic acid and phenylalanine, thereby reducing the availability of phenylalanine. This eliminates the need for a warning on labels directed at people who cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine.
Neotame is also more stable at higher temperatures than aspartame, so it’s approved for use in a wider array of food products, including baked goods.
However, one of the byproducts your body creates by breaking down aspartame is formaldehyde, which is extremely toxic to your health even in very small dosesvii. Furthermore, in a search of PubMed.gov, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which has over 11 million medical citations, neotame fails to include any double-blind scientific studies on toxicity in humans or animals. If neotame was indeed completely safe to ingest, you would think the NutraSweet Company would have published at least one double-blind safety study in the public domain?
Well, they haven't... Why not?
In and of itself, 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde is categorized as both highly flammable and an irritant, and carries risk statements for handling including irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory systemviii. Does this sound like something that belongs inside your body?
How Did these Chemicals Get Approved for Human Consumption?
Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could rightfully be accused of being a “subsidiary" of the Monsanto Company. When you realize just how many Monsanto executives and employees who have migrated into positions of power within the FDA and other government agencies, a truly disturbing picture emerges of the foxes guarding the henhouse.
The FDA is packed by pro-business, pro-corporation advocates who often have massive conflicts of interest when it comes to protecting the health of the public. In fact, the revolving door between private industry and government oversight agencies is so well established these days, it has become business as usual to read about scandal, conflicts of interest and blatant pro-industry bias, even when it flies in the face of science or the law.
Aspartame and Neotame—a Dieters WORST Enemy?
One of the most effective marketing and PR tactics for artificial sweeteners has been the claim that they help in the battle against obesity. Unfortunately, they don't. In fact, the research and the epidemiologic data suggest the opposite is true, and that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and neotame tend to lead to weight gain.
As I've often said, there's more to weight gain or weight loss than mere calorie intake.
One reason for aspartame and neotame's potential to cause weight gain is because phenylalanine and aspartic acid – the two amino acids that make up 90 percent of aspartame and are also present in neotame -- are known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and leptin; two hormones that are intricately involved with satiety and fat storage. Insulin and leptin are also the primary hormones that regulate your metabolism. So although you're not ingesting calories in the form of sugar, aspartame and neotame can still raise your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels, in turn, are two of the driving forces behind obesity, diabetes, and a number of our current chronic disease epidemics.
Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it, just as your body can become resistant to insulin, and once that happens, your body can no longer "hear" the hormonal messages instructing your body to stop eating, burn fat, and maintain good sensitivity to sweet tastes in your taste buds. So, you remain hungry; you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat... Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.
Neotame Added to Cattle Feed to Fatten Livestock...
If you want more proof that artificial sweeteners like neotame are not a dieter’s best friend, consider this: neotame is actually used as a substitute for molasses in cattle feed. The product is marketed as “Sweetos” in India. The makers of Neotame, in partnership with an Indian health care company called EnSigns Health Care Pvt Ltd, introduced the neotame-laced cattle feed sweetener back in October 2010ix. According to the press release:
“Sweetos is an economical substitute for molasses. Sweetos guarantees the masking of unpleasant tastes and odor and improves the palatability of feed. This product will be economical for farmers and manufacturers of cattle feed. It can also be used in mineral mixture,” said Craig Petray, CEO, The NutraSweet Company, a division of Searle, which is a part of Monsanto.
... “We are in talks with the animal husbandry department to reach out to farmers and are trying to tie up with extension services with co-operative societies as well. Cattle consume more fodder when mixed with Sweetos. This product has great export potential as well," said Mohan Nair, chairman, Ensigns Health Care.” [Emphasis mine.]
This brings up several disturbing facts... Not only are some countries now producing animal products that are potentially laced with neotame residues, but they’re clearly stating that the “diet” sweetener increases the amount of fodder consumed by the animals, so how exactly is it supposed to help you lose weight? Loss of appetite control is never a good thing when you’re trying to lose weight, and the statement made about Sweetos fodder speaks volumes about neotame’s impact on your appetite.
How to Report Adverse Reactions to Aspartame or Neotame
Did you know that only a fraction of all adverse food reactions are ever reported to the FDA? This is a problem that only you as the consumer can have an impact upon. In order to truly alert the FDA to a problem with a product they've approved, they must be notified – by as many people as possible who believe they have experienced a side effect. This mean you can take action against the manufacturers of these chemicals that continue to put your optimal health at risk, if you feel you have had a bad reaction to their product.
I urge you, if you believe you have experienced side effects from aspartame or neotame, let the FDA know about it!
Please go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number listed for your state, and report your adverse reaction.
There's no telling just how many reports they might need before considering taking another look at the safety of aspartame or neotame, but the only way to press them is by reporting any and all adverse effects. And in the meantime, do your health and the health of your family a favor and treat all foods and drinks that contain aspartame or neotame as if they were deleterious to your optimal health. Because, in my opinion, they are.
- i Neotame Ingredient Overview, neotame.com
- ii UK Food Standards Agency,
- iii Neotame Ingredients, Sci-toys.com,
- iv http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/00/Aug00/082200/c000004.pdf
- v Sott.net March 13, 2012,
- vi Cornucopia Institute, January 6, 2011,
- vii Formaldehyde derived from dietary aspartame binds to tissue components in vivo, Life Sciences, 1998;63(5):337-49,
- viii Chemical Book, 3,3-Dimethylbutyraldehyde,
- ix Ensigns Health launches cattlefeed sweetener, Pravda Godbole / Mumbai/ Pune Oct 30, 2010,