In an effort to move towards a healthier lifestyle, many of us are thinking more carefully about what we put into our bodies. We are well aware that many of the chemicals listed on the back of the packets of processed foods are not the best choices in the world when it comes to healthy eating, weight loss and preventing chronic diseases. However, did you know that a nasty chemical may be lurking in your food that you don’t even know about?
What is it?
Neotame is the name of the substance in question. In the EU it also goes by E number E961. Perhaps you have heard of it. It is more likely that you haven’t, as often it is not mentioned in the ingredients list, or it is hidden under a brand name such as NutraSweet or Equal.
In fact, there are no labelling laws in place at all for this particular additive even though it has been available for use in foods since 2002.
According to the FDA, it is not necessary to declare neotame on a list of ingredients at all.
What does it do?
Neotame is used as a sweetener for foods as it can be anywhere between 7,000 and 13,000 times sweeter than our everyday table sugar. This makes it up to 60 times sweeter than aspartame, a common additive found in diet sodas and other processed foods.
As you can imagine this makes it a tempting choice for food manufacturers when it comes to cutting costs, as it can be used in much smaller concentrations that alternatives like corn syrup. Neotame is marketed under NutraSweet, a division of Monsanto. It is advertised as a cheap, more potent alternative to sugar.
So what’s the Problem?
Neotame is a combination of aspartame and 3-di-methylbutyl, which is found on the list of the most hazardous chemicals produced by the EPA. It carries health warnings for handling that include skin and eye irritation and even respiratory damage.
With such care taken with a dangerous chemical in the manufacturing process, it seems crazy that we are willing to put this into our bodies voluntarily.
That is not the extent of it. Within the aspartame element of the substance is found phenylalanine and aspartic acid, both of which have caused extremely dangerous and disturbing effects when tested on lab animals, including seizures and brain damage.
Methanol is also present, which can cause damage to the liver and even blindness. This makes neotame an even more dangerous toxin than aspartame alone. It damages and kills cells all over the body which can lead to serious health risks.
What makes neotame a particularly dangerous threat is that it is a very stable compound even at high temperatures. This means that it is more versatile than aspartame, and can be used in a wider range of food products including baked goods.
Studies Speak for Themselves
There are no independent studies that confirm the complete safety of this substance. Even the tests run by Monsanto itself could not conceal the dangerous consequences of ingesting it. Over a decade of research involving independent studies on humans have showed an alarming trend. Not one of them confirmed its safety.
In fact, the studies showed neotame to be a neurotoxin, immuno-toxin and excitotoxin that can lead to cancer and brain tumours. Once it enters the body it is metabolized into formaldehyde, an extremely toxic poison. It has also been shown to have been produced with genetically modified bacteria.
How can you avoid Neotame?
While it is not yet widely used in food substances, now that neotame has been FDA approved, its use is on the rise. As there are no labelling guidelines in place for neotame, it can be very difficult to know if your food contains it or not. This turns our weekly food shop into a minefield of hidden toxins that it is tough to avoid.
Even foods that are USDA Certified Organic can still legally contain neotame as their primary sweetener. The best way to completely avoid the risk is to stick to a diet of whole foods, avoiding processed and artificially sweetened foods altogether.