Bryan Marcel: Truvia And PureVia
The latest sweetener to hit the market is Coca Cola and Cargill's Truvia. This product claims to be "Natural", but is it? Is it a healthy alternative to sugar?
The latest sweetener to hit the market is Coca Cola and Cargill's Truvia. I must say that I am concerned about Truvia for several reasons. On August 17, 2007 the FDA sent a letter to Hain Celestial Group stating that the use of Stevia in its tea products was unsafe. The FDA stated that they had concerns about Stevia's “control of blood sugar, and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems”. Then in August 2009 the “FDA has concluded that there is no basis to object to the use of certain refined Stevia preparations in food” . What this means is that Stevia, which is the complete compound consisting of steviosides, rebaudiosides and glycoside is unsafe, even though it has been in use for over 1000 years. But, Coca Cola's and Cargill's highly refined and processed Rebaudioside A (Reb A or rebiana), which is a single component of Stevia, is perfectly safe. Really? What gives? So Reb A is now okay according to the FDA, but true Stevia is still not approved except as a “herbal supplement”. I disagree, but I'll move on.
Truvia has three ingredients. Erythritol, rebiana, and natural flavors. First, Erthritol. According to Truvia, “Erythritol is a natural sweetener, produced by a natural process, and it is also found in fruits like grapes and pears”. Erthritol is found in fruits like grapes and pears and a few other fruits as well. The amount of Erthritol found in watermelon, melon, pears and grapes ranges between 0.0022 - 0.0047% by weight. In order to “harvest” 1 ounce of Erthritol you would need between 13 and 28 pounds of these fruits. Since there is no plant that grows and produces Erthritol in any sizable quantity it is made by a manufacturing process. Food grade starch (from genetically modified corn) is broken down into glucose by fermentation with moniliella pollinis, a yeast. The glucose is then broken down into Erthritol. It is about 70% the sweetness of sucrose, but its purpose in Truvia is that of a filler, a bulking agent. (Fructose also occurs in fruits, but read my article “Fructose Makes You Fat And UnHealthy” to see how your body treats a sugar that has been removed from its source).
Second, according to Truvia, “Rebiana comes from the sweet leaf of the Stevia plant, native to South America. Dried Stevia leaves are steeped in water, similar to making tea. This unlocks the best tasting part of the leaf which is then purified to provide a calorie-free sweet taste”. Rebiana or Reb A does come from the Stevia plant. But, according to FoodProductDesign.com, “While Reb A is derived from the Stevia plant, it is not the same as the Stevia that has been sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement”. Reb A is simply part of the stevioside molecule. It isn't Stevia. Splenda claims to be made from sugar. It did start out as a sugar molecule, and then in a five step process three chlorine molecules were added. The end result not being anything remotely close to sugar. Truvia is using the same logic-stretching technique. Rebiana isn't the Stevia that you have heard about for years. It is also true that the Stevia plant is native to South America. What they don't tell you is that 80% of all Stevia comes from China. I don't trust China to safely produce any food product. They have proven time and time again over the past several years that they cannot be trusted to make safe, quality products. There are also many genetically modified forms of Stevia being grown. Genetic modification alters the plant at the cellular level. It's not known what, if any, long-term health implications genetic modification will have. Europe has banned many genetically modified foods. Those that they do allow require labels informing the consumer. I have written Truvia asking if their Stevia is grown in China and if they use genetically modified plants. If I ever get a response, I will post it.
Truvia claims that the process used to make rebiana is “similar to making tea”. Please define “similar”. According to Coca Cola's U.S. patent application method for purifying rebiana is a 42 step process that includes the use of acetone, acetonitrile, metanol, ethanol (yes, the same that you put in your gas tank) and isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). The side effects of exposure to these substances ranges from suppression of the central nervous system to death. Now I don't know about you, but I personally don't use any of these substances when I make tea. It is curious though, that Coca Cola filed this patent for rebiana on May 21, 2007 and three months later (August 17, 2007) the real Stevia was ruled unsafe, but rebiana was approved. The “purification process” results in rebiana being 95% pure. Because of this it is about 400 times sweeter than sugar. Truvia claims that each packet of Truvia is twice as sweet as sugar. Let's do the math. Rebiana is 400 times sweeter than sugar. Truvia as a final product is twice as sweet as sugar. So 400 divided by 2 is 200. One packet of pure rebiana would then be the equivalent of 200 packets of sugar. Try this at home. Empty one sugar packet onto a plate. Divide the sugar on the plate into 200 equal portions. One portion of the 200 is the miniscule amount of rebiana in a single packet of Truvia. So what is in the rest of the Truvia packet? All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance. So the first ingredient in any food product is what that product has the most of. Then the ingredients are listed in descending order. With Truvia, the first ingredient is Erthritol. Erthritol is mainly what Truvia is made of, followed by a very distant miniscule amount of rebiana, and in turn by even less natural flavor.
And that brings us to the last ingredient, natural flavor. Truvia's website says that “natural flavors are used to bring out the best of Truvia, like pepper or salt or any other spice that would be used to heighten the taste of food”. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines natural flavor as: “any product which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice ... whose significant function in food is for flavoring rather than nutritional”. Sounds very natural, but look closer. “Flavoring constituents derived” says what a natural flavor really is: The chemical equivalent of a natural flavor. Natural flavors are made in a laboratory. What the natural flavor is doesn't have to be listed because they are considered to be trade secrets. The only time that you will ever see “natural flavor” listed on a food ingredient label is when there are no real natural flavors. But it is resourceful for Truvia's to compare their natural flavor to pepper or salt. As a side note, an artificial flavor is the chemical equivalent of a flavor that is not from a spice, fruit, vegetable, etc, but also made in a lab.
Truvia uses the word “natural” a lot on their website and packaging. Most people don't realize that with the exception of meat that the word “natural” has no meaning. I have shown you how Truvia is made. Truvia doesn't seem at all “natural” to me. You won't find Truvia in nature. Even with genetic modification you can't grow it. The Truvia website and packaging has been very carefully worded. They bend the truth and make inferences, but they never quite lie. People read their information and see what they want to see. Hence the use of pictures of Stevia leaves and all the “green” on the box and website.
Although the majority of this article is about Coca Cola's Truvia, don't count out their competitor PepsiCo. PepsiCo has entered into a partnership with Whole Earth Sweetener Company to jointly own and market PureVia, their version of essentially the same product. Whole Earth Sweetener Company is owned by the Merisant Company, the makers of Equal. Equal contains apartmane, a multipotential carcinogenic. So don't let all of the feel-good natural claims on their websites fool you. Truvia and PureVia are just another scam on the consumer. These products are marketed as Stevia sweeteners and they are anything but that. If you want Stevia, then look for Stevia extract or stevioside on the ingredient label. I think that real Stevia is fine in moderation. Erythritol is fine in its natural form in fruit. But when you take a component of a fruit, like Erythritol, that makes up less than 0.0047% of that fruit and you make it the primary ingredient in your new sweetener, no one knows how the human body will react to it long term. (But our experience with fructose and high fructose corn syrup may be some indication.) This is not the Stevia with its 1000+ year history. Truvia and PureVia are new chemical concoctions that have no history and no track record. Besides that, these sweeteners totally miss the point. The goal is better health. The best way to achieve that in regards to sweeteners is to keep it simple and reduce consumption.
Truvia and PureVia are just products designed to keep you consuming things that aren’t any good for you under the premise of reduced calories. Use raw honey, raw sugar, and real Stevia sparingly. Leave the Truvia and PureVia on the store shelf next to all the other man made artificial sweeteners where they belong.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a Certified Personal Trainer and an avid health researcher as an average ordinary guy. Up until a few years ago I also looked like an average ordinary guy. I had the belly. So, I set out to lose twenty pounds and like the majority of people I found that the most accepted advice was worthless. I I came to the conclusion that almost everything that we have been taught about health and nutrition is pretty much wrong. I then set out to find the correct facts. I persevered in this search and discovered much. I then applied (to myself) what I had discovered. Since then I have lost thirty pounds, three and a half inches from my waist and no longer need four prescription medications. I have learned so much about health and nutrition and I want to share it with the world.