Neotame

Neotame is an artificial sweetener developed by Nutrasweet that is an astonishing 8,000 times as sweet as sugar. 

In fact, depending on how it is used, it can be up to 13,000 sweeter than sugar. It is a modified form of Aspertame. It has a good flavor with little aftertaste. Unlike Aspartame it does not break down under heat and so is suitable for cooking and in processed foods.

Benefits:
It has zero calories per serving and zero glycemic index. This makes it suitable as part of a diabetic diet. Unlike aspartame it is safe for people with the Phenylketonuria (PKU) disorder. 

Concerns:
The main concern seems to be guilt by association. Because it is based on Aspartame, critics of that product are also negative towards it. Also it has, perhaps unfairly, been branded a neurotoxin and this negative perception may be the reason producers have been slow to incorporate into their branded products.

But make no mistake - it is much safer than aspartame. Upon digestion it is broken down into 2 parts: 92% de-esterified neotame and 8% methanol. The first part is excreted the second is metabolized. Methanol (wood alcohol) is toxic, but the amounts are really tiny - you would ingest far more from eating an apple!

Aspartame is fully metabolized by the digestive system, and broken down into it's component parts Aspartic Acid, Phenylalanine and Methanol. All these are absorbed by the body, at levels 40 times higher than Neotame for the same sweetness, making it far more hazardous to health.

So despite a considerable bias against it, and the number of products on the market that now contain it, there seems to be nothing of substance turning up to flag any real issues. 

Results of testing on rats showed no adverse effects, they simply didn't like it and lost weight as a result of eating less.

Safety Guideline:
The FDA has issued a guideline ADI of 0.3mg of this substance per kg of body weight. For the average person this would be equivalent to about 44 cans of soda sweetened with it.

CSPI (US) Recommendation

The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - SAFE

Since Sucralose was demoted, Advantame and Neotame are now the only artificial sweeteners endorsed by the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest. So for time being, unless new information arises, it appears to be safe.

Weight Loss:
Artificial sweeteners have proven to be disappointing regarding weight loss when used instead of sugar. This is surprising as they contain no calories. However new light may have been shed on this issue.

A clinical study, conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel and published Sept 17th 2014, has shown a relationship between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and metabolic problems. Saccharin, Aspartame and Sucralose were shown to effect the bacteria in the bowel in adverse ways. Tests showed impaired glucose metabolism in subjects, human and animal following moderate consumption over several weeks. Indeed effects were seen in people after only one week having consumed Saccharin at maximum consumer recommended levels.

More information is available at Science News. Further testing is needed, and indeed Neotame was not included in the trial. Nevertheless the results are indeed worrying. Perhaps these sweeteners have no role at all to play in weight loss and may be a poorer choice than regular sugar!

Production:
It is a modified form of Aspartame, created by combining it with another chemical. This makes it more stable, sweeter and prevents it breaking down into phenylalanine during the metabolic process. It is still under patent though quantities are produced illegally in China.

Sold As:
It is sold under the brand name Newtame. It is mainly used by food producers. It is the cheapest sweetener and is used to reduce cost of manufacture. Whether this saving is passed on the the consumer is another matter! It is also used to sweeten cattle feed.

How Expensive?
It is not generally sold to the consumer. On the commodity market it is the cheapest sweetener available, costing about 1% the price of sugar for the same unit of sweetness.

Neotame Market Share:
In 2012 it  sold approx 0.25 million tonnes equivalent out of a total world market of approx 188 million tonnes. (Sugar was about 155 million tonnes) This would give it about 0.13% of the total market by unit of sweetness. By value it would be significantly less.

Interesting facts:
Its manufacturers claim that it is between 7,000 and 13,000 times as sweet as sugar, depending on the use. They also claim that at very small amounts, below even the level required to sweeten food, it can serve as a flavour enhancer, thus reducing the requirement for expensive flavours such as onion etc. It is the cheapest sweetener on the market, 1% the cost of sugar and 3% the cost of HFCS (High fructose corn syrup)

Approval:
Approved for use in the USA in 2002. Approved in the EU as E961. Unlike Aspartame no warning is required as phenylalanine is not produced and consequently it is safe to consume for people who suffer from phenylketonuria (pku). Because of the tiny amount needed it is not even required to be named in the list of ingredients, but simply to be mentioned by its E number. So if you see E961 you know it contains Neotame.



 

Conclusions for Neotame

Is useful for diabetics and is harmless to teeth. Appears to be safe. However it is not available on the consumer market, though this may change. Certainly a better choice than Aspartame. 
Surprisingly, despite being cheaper, more heat stable and apparently safer than Aspartame, it has not yet replaced this sweetener in any significant way in the market.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Neotame 0 8,000 0 0

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No.
Concerns: ----- Yes.




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