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You know that bowl of sugar packets on your table? There’s a white one, a blue one, a yellow one, a pink one…and now, a new color will probably be showing up soon.

The FDA recently approved a new artificial sugar substitute called advantame (which doesn’t have a brand-name yet, such as Splenda or Equal), as a safe-to-use general purpose sweetener and additive to sodas, chewing gum, baked goods, and most other foods.

But…What Is It?

According to the FDA’s website, “advantame is a free-flowing, water soluble, white crystalline powder that is stable even at higher temperatures, and can be used as a tabletop sweetener as well as in cooking applications. Ajinomoto, the maker of advantame, claims its new sweetener has a pure, sugar-like taste with no undesirable aftertaste.

Advantame is also a chemical derivative of the artificial sweetener, aspartame, which certain individuals should avoid or limit. For example, people with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, have a difficult time metabolizing phenylalanine, a component of both aspartame and advantame. However, according to the FDA, since advantame is many times sweeter than aspartame, a much smaller amount has to be used in order to achieve the same level of sweetness, so products containing advantame won’t be required to carry the same info statement alerting people with PKU about the presence of phenylalanine.

The Pros…

The advantage of using advantame, like other sweeteners, is that it contributes very few if any calories to foods and does not affect blood sugar levels in the same way that traditional sugar does.

The Cons…

One of the primary concerns with any artificial sweetener as to do with its safety. To approve advantame’s safety, the FDA reviewed 37 scientific animal and human studies looking at possible toxic effects and deemed the product safe for the public.

In addition to as-yet limited studies, research continues to link artificial sweeteners with weight gain.