What is Aspartame? Definition: A white, crystalline, odorless, slightly water-soluble noncarbohydrate powder, C 14 H 18 N 2 O 5 , synthesized from amino acids, that is 150–200 times as sweet as sugar: used as a low-calorie sugar substitute in soft drinks, table sweeteners, and other food products.
Origin: 1970–75; aspart ( yl phenyl ) a ( linine ) m ( ethyl ) e ( ster ), the powder's chemical name
Once Aspartame is in the body
Following investigation, aspartame is broken down in the digestive tract to form aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Therefore hardly any aspartame gets in the blood. The body rapidly metabolizes the aspartic acid and methanol without significantly increasing their concentration in the bloodstream, even for aspartame taken as a single dose equivalent to the entire Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI).
How we use Aspartame
Aspartame is used as a low-calorie sugar substitute in soft drinks, table sweeteners, and other food products.
Where to find it
How it’s made
The Manufacturing Process
Although its components—aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol—occur naturally in foods, aspartame itself does not and must be manufactured. NutraSweet' (aspartame) is made through fermentation and synthesis processes.
Direct fermentation produces the starting amino acids needed for the manufacture of aspartame. In this process, specific types of bacteria which have the ability to produce certain amino acids are raised in large quantities. Over the course of about three days, the amino acids are harvested and the bacteria are destroyed.
1 To start the fermentation process, a sample from a pure culture of bacteria is put into a test tube containing the nutrients necessary for its growth. After this initial inoculation the bacteria begin to multiply. When their population is large enough, they are transferred to a seed tank. The bacterial strains used to make L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine are B. flavum and C. glutamicum respectively.
2 The seed tank provides an ideal environment for growing more bacteria. It is filled with the things bacteria need to thrive, including warm water and carbohydrate foods like cane molasses, glucose, or sucrose. It also has carbon sources like acetic acid, alcohols or hydrocarbons, and nitrogen sources such as liquid ammonia or urea. These are required for the bacteria to synthesize large quantities of the desired amino acid. Other growth factors such as vitamins, amino acids, and minor nutrients round out seed tank contents. The seed tank is equipped with a mixer, which keeps the growth medium moving, and a pump, which delivers filtered, compressed air. When enough bacterial growth is present, the contents from the seed tank are pumped to the fermentation tank.
3 The fermentation tank is essentially a larger version of the seed tank. It is filled with the same growth media found in the seed tank and also provides a perfect environment for bacterial growth. Here the bacteria are allowed to grow and produce large quantities of amino acids. Since pH control is vital for optimal growth, ammonia water is added to the tank as necessary.
4 When enough amino acid is present, the contents of the fermentation tank are transferred out so isolation can begin. This process starts with a centrifugal separator, which isolates a large portion of the bacterial amino acids. The desired amino acid is further segregated and purified in an ion-exchange column. From this column, the amino acids are pumped to a crystallizing tank and then to a crystal separator. They are then dried and readied for the synthesis phase of aspartame production.
Aspartame can be made by various synthetic chemical pathways.