Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another." —Juvenal

The ingredients in Truvia are Erythritol, Rebiana, and Natural Flavors.

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is frequently created by fermenting sucrose using yeast. In general, erythritol is considered a “good” sugar alcohol, because it is absorbed into the blood stream in the small intestine rather than the large intestine, so it does not usually cause the gastrointestinal problems of most sugar alcohols. It is also shown to have little to no effect on blood glucose levels, making it low on the glycemic index.

Personally, I use Organic Zero by Wholesome Sweeteners, which is organically produced erythritol. When Wholesome Sweeteners produces their erythritol they do not use any chemicals, they simply use an organically approved fermenting agent to ferment the sucrose into erythritol. Unfortunately, in the case of Truvia, the method of fermentation is not disclosed – so they could be using chemicals to produce the erythritol. You can read more about Erythritol here.

Natural Flavors is a very cryptic description of an ingredient. At this point, the FDA has not placed regulations on the term “Natural” so any company can claim that anything is natural; however, there is some regulation on natural vs. artificial ingredients that are very broad. I am definitely wary of what this term could include. Read this article for more information on natural vs. artificial flavors.

Rebiana is part of the stevia plant. Unfortunately there is not much information out there about how the rebiana is harvested from the stevia plant or exactly which part of the plant it is. Also, there is not much information on the 3 different types of sweeteners harvested form the stevia plant. Most people consider stevia to be safe.

According to some research that I found, in the safety tests that were conducted in 2008, 14 of 16 studies cited that stevioside (derived from the stevia plant, and the most common stevia sweetener on the market) did not show genotoxic effects, 11 of 15 studies did show genotoxic effects for steviol (another sweetener derived from the stevia plant), and none of the studies showed genotoxic activities for rebaudioside a (another sweetener derived from stevia, and possibly the type used in Truvia). Unfortunately, the details of these research studies were not released and it is not clear whether these studies use high or low doses of the different forms of stevia.

Yes, other countries, like Japan, do use stevia as a sweetener. However, they do not use it in high doses. It is used to sweeten tea – not placed in every “sugary” beverage that they consume. The negative effects of stevia have been documented when rodents are given high doses of the herb, not when lower doses are present. Unfortunately, if stevia is placed into all of Coca-Cola and Cargill’s sweetened beverages, foods, etc. it may bring out the higher dose effects.

We know that the large food companies will not use the sweetener sparingly. Most commercially sweetened items are significantly over sweetened. In addition, the population that consumes these types of beverages and diet food items oftentimes consume several beverages/diet food items per day which would result in consumption of high doses of stevia.

Here are the main safety concerns:

Reproductive Problems/Infertility. One European study found that stevioside “seems to affect the male reproductive organ system”. Male rats were given high doses of stevioside for 22 months and their sperm production was reduced, the weight of their seminal vesicles declined, and there was cell proliferation in their testicles, which could cause infertility and other problems. Another study found that when female hamsters were fed high doses of steviol, they had fewer and smaller offspring.

A. Yamada et al.: Chronic toxicity study of dietary stevia extracts in F344 rats. J. Food Hyg Soc Japan 26:169-183, 1985. (Not indexed in Medline and not available on the Internet)

C. Wasuntarawat et al.: Developmental toxicity of steviol, a metabolite of stevioside, in the hamster. Drug Chem Toxicol 1998 May; 21(2):207-22. (Abstract available in Medline)


Cancer. In the studies that I listed above, researchers were able to convert stevioside and steviol into a mutagenic/genotoxic compound, which may promote cancer by causing mutations in the cells’ DNA. It is unclear whether or not steviosol or rebaudioside a is converted to steviol then into a mutagenic compound in the human body.

Energy Metabolism. It has been found that high amounts of stevioside can interfere with carbohydrate absorption in animals, which could inhibit the conversion of food to energy within cells.

All in all, stevia appears to be safe in small doses – although, if you do decide to purchase a stevia product, I would not recommend Truvia because it is not pure stevia. However, there are definitely some issues that need to be further explored for stevia’s mass consumption. Unfortunately, a lot of the information that I found seemed to be buried by the “positive” press that stevia has received as of late.

I do not think that Splenda is a better alternative to stevia, as the harmful effects of all artificial sweeteners are better documented. I just want to make sure that you have all of the facts when making decisions about what to put into your body.

Please let me know if you have further questions, comments or additions to the information that I have listed above.


Anonymous said...

What sweetner do you use in baking or in your coffee/tea?

Maria Peters said...

I do not add sweetener to my coffee or tea, I simply use a tablespoon or two of unsweetened soy milk in my coffee and drink tea unsweetened. I bake with agave, honey, sucanat, applesauce, or organic zero - sometimes a combination of two. :)

dirtyduck said...

excellent excellent post my friend.