On Monday, the FDA approved a new sugar substitute called advantame.
Chemically related to aspartame (also known as Equal), advantame doesn't have a brand name yet (and what color will the packets be—if there are packets—since blue, yellow, and pink are already taken?). Its approval includes that it can be used in baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks), chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups. The only thing it cannot be used to flavor at this time is meat and poultry.
Many people question the overall safety of artificial sweeteners, even though there are countless studies that substantiate their use. “In determining the safety of advantame, FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible toxic (harmful) effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems,” says captain Andrew Zajac, U.S. Public Health Service director of the Division of Petition Review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Personally I don’t have a problem with the use of artificial sweeteners since I have seen them be helpful in weight loss with hundreds of my patients, especially diabetics. And I happen to like one in my iced coffee or latte. But—and there is a big but—I think it is important to look at your total daily diet. If many of the foods you are eating throughout the course of a day include an artificial sweetener, then I question how healthy your diet is overall. For example, are you eating fresh fruit, veggies, almonds, fish, beans, and barley (which have no need for an artificial sweetener), or is your diet filled with non-nutritious diet soda, sugar-free cookies, pudding, and Jell-O?
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Bottom line: If you want an artificial sweetener in your morning coffee, go for it. But remember there are lots of other ways to add sweetness to your food; for example, cinnamon in oatmeal, fresh berries in yogurt, or a sliced banana on cereal. At the end of the day, I would choose the foods that give me a nutritious bang for my buck.