Advantame – guide to artificial sweeteners

Advantame is the latest artificial sweetener; it was approved in 2014 for use within the EU. It is similar to aspartame in taste and properties – though sweeter and better in many ways. Still, advantame has not yet had its big breakthrough.

17 November 2020 •

In this instal­ment of the guide to arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, we will focus on the newest mem­ber of the fam­i­ly of arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. Simplified, it can be described as a bet­ter ver­sion of aspar­tame. No calo­ries. No GI. No adverse health effects. No off-flavours. But sta­ble and 20,000 times sweet­er than sug­ar. May we present advan­tame.

Newcomer

Advantame is a junior among the arti­fi­cial sweeteners.

It is the result of a research project that a Japanese food and biotech com­pa­ny under­took to find a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er with a taste rem­i­nis­cent of sug­ar. It took some time, but in 2008 they could present their inno­va­tion. After that, it went fast.

Already 2014 it had under­gone the rig­or­ous con­trol that all new ingre­di­ents must under­go to be allowed in the EU. As an insignia for its safe­ty, it received the e‑number E 969.

granskning av dokument

How advantame is made

Advantame is pro­duced in sev­er­al steps from aspar­tame and vanillin. The cost is said to be one-hun­dredth of that for sugar.

vaniljblomma med vaniljstänger

First to be pro­duced is vanillin, which gives vanil­la its char­ac­ter­is­tic taste and aro­ma. It can of course be extract­ed from vanil­la, but in prac­tice, it is made syn­thet­i­cal­ly from lignin or gua­ia­col, both of which are extract­ed from wood.

The pro­duc­tion of advan­tame begins with sev­er­al steps that con­vert vanillin into hexa­m­ethylphos­pho­ramide (HMPA).

In par­al­lel, aspar­tame is pre­pared. This is done by let­ting the bac­te­ria Brevibacterium flavum and Corynebacterium glu­tam­icum form amino acids in a fer­men­ta­tion process. These amino acids are then syn­the­sised into aspar­tame. See the descrip­tion in the arti­cle on aspar­tame.

Now it’s time for the great trans­for­ma­tion scene. In the pres­ence of met­al, an alkyl (a hydro­car­bon com­pound) is trans­ferred from HMPA to aspar­tame which then becomes advan­tame. This is called alky­la­tion.

The met­al, which is often plat­inum or pal­la­di­um, acts as a land­ing site where an aspar­tame mol­e­cule and an HMPA mol­e­cule can set­tle to do the trans­fer of the alkyl. None of the met­al is includ­ed; it’s just a catalyst.

During the final step, HMPA and advan­tame are dis­solved in methanol. Therefore, the solu­tion needs to be crys­tallised, and the raw crys­tals washed. The prod­uct is recrys­tallised, and the crys­tals are sep­a­rat­ed, rinsed and dried.

Jü (CC BY-SA 4.0)

How advantame can be used

Advantame is main­ly used to replace sug­ar and oth­er bulk sweet­en­ers. Tests show advan­tame can replace up to 40 per cent of sug­ar with­out any effect on taste.

Advantame may be used in a vari­ety of prod­ucts.

Safer than aspartame

Advantame is made from aspar­tame. Does this mean that advan­tame has the same health issues as aspartame?

In the body, aspar­tame is bro­ken down into, among oth­er things, pheny­lala­nine. For most peo­ple, this in its turn is bro­ken down to tyro­sine. However, for per­sons with the con­gen­i­tal dis­ease phenylke­tonuria, pheny­lala­nine is not bro­ken down but con­cen­trat­ed in the blood. Eventually, that leads to brain damage.

So, does advan­tame have the same issue? No. Phenylalanine is not formed when advan­tame is bro­ken down. So what hap­pens in the body?

What happens in the body?

On its way through the gas­troin­testi­nal tract, advan­tame under­goes hydrol­y­sis and becomes a car­boxylic acid and methanol. Formic acid, acetic acid and butyric acid are exam­ples of oth­er car­boxylic acids. The one formed dur­ing hydrol­y­sis of advan­tame is called ANS9801-acid.

The body can­not absorb either advan­tame or the acid it forms. Everything comes out the nat­ur­al way. Between 87 and 93 per cent via fae­ces and the rest via urine.

The methanol that is formed is con­sid­ered harm­less due to its small amount.

Förvånad apa

Safety of advantame

So, is advan­tame safe?

The short answer is yes. Advantame has been exten­sive­ly test­ed on every­thing from mice to humans with­out any adverse effects in either the short or long term.

But for safety’s sake, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set 5 mil­ligrams per kilo­gram of body weight and day as an accept­able dai­ly intake (ADI). It is far below the dos­es of over 7,000 mil­ligrams with which advan­tame has been tested.

It may see mea­gre with 5 mg/​kg body weight and day. But the fact is that even large con­sumers of sweet­ened prod­ucts can nev­er get more than a few micro­grams per kilo­gram of body weight and day. So the lim­it is abundant.

Advantages of advantame

With the risk of sound­ing like an adver­tis­ing brochure for advan­tame (which def­i­nite­ly isn’t our inten­tion), many of the ben­e­fits of the sweet­en­er are list­ed below:

  • 20,000 times sweet­er than sug­ar and 100 times sweet­er than aspartame.
  • Has no off-flavour or unde­sir­able aftertaste.
  • Taste pro­file very sim­i­lar to aspartame.
  • Is more sta­ble than aspar­tame when heat­ed and at high­er pH-values.
  • Is com­plete­ly sta­ble in dry form.
  • Gives no ener­gy (adds 0 calories)
  • Does not affect the blood sug­ar lev­el (GI = 0)
  • Cheap to manufacture
  • No health problems

Disadvantages of advantame

It’s hard to find any neg­a­tive to say about advan­tame – except it is arti­fi­cial. There is only one thing you real­ly should take into consideration:

  • It takes a sec­ond before the taste buds reg­is­ter advan­tame, which means that you have to use anoth­er sweet­en­er as a buffer.

Summary

Advantame is the result of a per­sis­tent search for a sug­ar-like high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er – far from chemists who lick their fin­gers and acci­den­tal­ly dis­cov­er sweet­en­ers, which his­to­ry is oth­er­wise full of.

Advantame is formed from aspar­tame and vanillin, which in turn are chem­i­cal­ly pro­duced ingre­di­ents. It is unde­ni­ably a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er; it is 20,000 times sweet­er than sug­ar. By com­par­i­son, aspar­tame is 100 times sweet­er than sug­ar. Advantame is at least as sta­ble as aspar­tame, and more sta­ble dur­ing heat­ing. It also has a longer sweet aftertaste.

Advantame is not dan­ger­ous for humans accord­ing to the stud­ies that have been done. It can be used in a large num­ber of foods to replace sug­ar and high-calo­rie sweeteners.

bluesky-field-

But…

Advantame is an arti­fi­cial sweet­en­er pro­duced through a long chain of chem­i­cal process­es with inter­me­di­ates and by-prod­ucts with names that can scare the most hard­ened advo­cate of arti­fi­cial sweeteners.

Therefore, advan­tame, despite all its ben­e­fits, may not be the right sweet­en­er for food pro­duc­ers who want to appeal to increas­ing­ly scep­ti­cal con­sumers. Then it may be wis­er to choose a high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er of nat­ur­al ori­gin – for exam­ple, ste­vi­ol glycosides.

Steviol gly­co­sides (E 960) are sweet sub­stances found in the plant ste­via grown in sub­trop­i­cal regions. Steviol gly­co­sides are extract­ed in a way that is rem­i­nis­cent of how sug­ar is extract­ed from sug­ar beets, and the result is called ste­via extract.

One prob­lem that ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides share with advan­tame and oth­er high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­ers is the void left by the sug­ar it replaces. Sweetened fibres solve that problem.

Sweetened fibres are, as the name implies, dietary fibres that are sweet­ened with high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er. In our sweet­ened fibres, EUREBA®, we use ste­vi­ol glycosides.

Take a look at our range of ser­vices or con­tact us if you want to know more about how we can help you.

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