By Dr. Mercola
Since 2002 an artificial sweetener called neotame has been approved for use in food and drink products around the world, although so far its use appears to be very limited.
Neotame is a chemical derivative of aspartame, and judging by the chemicals used in its manufacturing, it appears even more toxic than aspartame, although the proponents of neotame claim that increased toxicity is not a concern, because less of it is needed to achieve the desired effect.
Neotame is bad science originally brought to you by the Monsanto Company. They sold the NutraSweet Company to J.W. Childs Equity Partners in 2000, but the approval of neotame came under Monsanto's ownership, and was most likely a result of Monsanto's cozy relationship with the FDA. More about that in a minute.
My recommendation for neotame is the same as that for aspartame, which is: it should be avoided if you care about your health.
Why is Neotame Dangerous?
Hopefully by now you are aware of the dangers of aspartame, if you aren't, please review this previous article.
But as if aspartame wasn't bad enough, NutraSweet (a Monsanto subsidiary at the time of neotame's approval) "improved" the aspartame formula, making neotame 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose) and 30-60 times sweeter than aspartame.
How did they do this?
In 1998, Monsanto applied for FDA approval for neotame, "based on the aspartame formula" with one critical addition: 3-dimethylbutyl, which just happens to be listed on the EPA's most hazardous chemical list.
So not only is neotame potentially more devastating to your health than aspartame, it is also approved for use in a wider array of food products, including baked goods, because it is more stable at higher temperatures.
What is 3-Dimethylbutyl?
Neotame is manufactured by combining aspartame with 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde, which was added to block 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.
However, 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 system.
In other words, the NutraSweet company assures you that neotame is perfectly safe, while at the same time they manufacture neotame through a chemical reaction between aspartame and a substance that is highly flammable and a skin, eye and respiratory irritant (that must be handled with extreme caution by anyone involved in the manufacturing process).
Does this sound like something you want to put into your body?
Why are These Chemicals Approved for Human Consumption?
Many people actually consider the FDA to be a "subsidiary" of the Monsanto Company. It sounds impossible, but when you look at all the Monsanto executives who have gone through the revolving door between private industry and government oversight, 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.
A few examples include:
Why Aspartame and Neotame are NOT a Dieters Best Friend
On of the biggest marketing and PR tactics for man-made chemical sweeteners has been the claim that they help in the battle against obesity. Folks, they don't. They never have and they never will.
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.
What happens then?
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.
The Real Reason Artificial Sweetener Use Has Exploded
If you want some answers in scenarios like this it is typically useful to follow the money trail. Aspartame currently has the largest market share of all artificial sweeteners, and the people at NutraSweet would like to keep it that way.
Artificial sweeteners cost a great deal less than real sugar, corn syrup or molasses, so the processed food and beverage industry saves money by using LESS of these man-made chemicals to create MORE sweetness in their products.
Neotame is manufactured from aspartame, and builds on aspartame's ability to provide more sweetness from less raw material, as it is 30-60 times sweeter than aspartame.
Unfortunately, one byproduct your body creates by breaking down aspartame is formaldehyde, which is extremely toxic to your health even in very small doses. The NutraSweet Company claims the addition of 3,3-Dimethylbutyraldehyde to aspartame makes it more stable at higher temperatures, and reduces the availability of phenylalanine. But nowhere do they discuss the formation of formaldehyde when your body breaks down aspartame, which is the main ingredient of neotame.
In a search of pubmed.gov, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which has over 11 million medical citations, neotame returns zero 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? They haven't.
You have to ask yourself "why not?"
Have You Experienced a Bad Aspartame or Neotame Reaction? Be Heard!
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.