Well, It Is Here

January 19, 2009

There has been a repetitive ad in every single health magazine I have read in the New Year. (It has been a lot of magazines, by the way. It was a long flight to Brazil!)

What is that ad, you ask? Truvia™

If you remember back in October I did a post about the Great Sweetener Debate where I talked about the sweetener stevia and some of the concerns that exist at the moment regarding its safety.

We knew it was coming and here it is. Truvia™ is the commercial name they have given to stevia rebiana. It is likely you are going to see it popping up in products a lot now if you haven’t already.

It looks like our FDA gave the company the thumbs up on safety in foods. However, the product is still quite controversial around the world. It is widely used in Japan, some countries have put a limit on what can be considered safe intake amounts and it is still banned in Europe. The bans result from early studies suggesting it could negatively influence reproduction and be carcinogenic.

Is that really any surprise? I mean, look at all the controversy surround aspartame, saccharin and sucralose.

I guess we’ll all just have to decide for ourselves. I’m planning to stick with my regular sweeteners of plain ol’ white sugar, brown sugar and honey. No, chemicals for me thanks. Even if it comes from a plant and is termed “natural” there always has to be something going on to mass produce it commercially.

If you want to read more about it there is a great article on treehugger, including some info about how the tribes of Brazil and Paraguay used to chew on the leaves believing it was a method of birth control. Yikes!

Tell me what you think.

Photo by Pat Her, www.morguefile.com

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  • Erica January 19, 2009 at 7:09 am

    YES! I concur- I’m for sugar only! Just a little won’t kill us!

  • Mark Salinas January 19, 2009 at 7:24 am

    I will check it out! A little bit can’t be so bad. 🙂

  • Meg January 19, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I switched from Sweet n Low to pure stevia, but I strive for moderation with it. I only use it in my coffee and to sweeten my oats.

  • cathy January 19, 2009 at 8:04 am

    I have the same concerns that you do about stevia. I also wonder how people that work to stay away from refined sugars will treat Truvia, as it seems to be stevia in a very refined form with all bitter components removed. It does seem that it’s probably ok in very small amounts, but what do we Americans ever do in small amounts? If it’s in diet soda, you can bet that people will be consuming it in massive amounts, and that’s scary to me.

  • lauren January 19, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I am with you on this one…splenda scares me.

  • Lori January 19, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Erica – I don’t have a problem at all with a little white sugar as well.

    Mark – It is definitley one of those things everyone must decide for themselves.

    Meg – Yeah, I think moderation is the key with most things. Glad it works with your recent allergy discovery.

    cathy – That was my worry too. Some countries have set safe limits that would equal two sodas a day. With all our refills diet coke drinkers will get a lot more than that. At least I did when I drank it.

    lauren – Yeah, it is interesting how my view of these things has evolved. I did a research project on splenda in college and was a fan. Now, all the chemicals concern me.

  • Striving Green January 19, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for the info and the treehugger article. I’ve been curious about this sweetener ever since they started their massive magazine advertising campaign.

  • Ricki January 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I think there’s a huge difference between something like saccharin and stevia–one is an herb that has a natural sweetness, and another is a chemical made in a laboratory. But I agree, if people use stevia the way they use aspartame/sucralose and other artificial sweeteners (ie drinking a quart of diet soda a day), then of course they’ll experience problems.

    Even sugar (while it contributes nothing nutritionally and depresses the immune system) is okay in moderation–the problem is that most of us aren’t able to consume it in moderation only. We’ve had stevia here (Canada) as a supplement (not approved as a sweetener) for years and I use it occasionally–but I have no idea how it differs from Truvia.

  • Lori January 20, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Hi Ricki – I definitely agree with you regarding moderation. I think that is the big issue.

    For me, while I see a difference between the natural form of stevia and chemical sweeteners, I still question the variety they would pump into food products. I would be surprised if they are harvesting the natural plants and using the most natural form. I expect there is some sort of processing involved to make it stable for the foods. That is why I question “natural sweetener”. If I remember correctly sucralose was termed natural because it was derived from sugar, but it was humans playing with the chemical make up that created it, not nature.

  • Tangled Noodle January 20, 2009 at 5:44 am

    I prefer raw brown and organic white sugars but I use way too much of both so my main issue is cutting back. While the idea of alternative natural sweeteners is great, it pays to look at what the traditional uses of the particular plants were – as you’ve pointed out. What do you think of agave nectar? My relatives in the Philippines (some of whom are diabetic) have been raving about it.

  • Lori January 20, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Tangled Noodle –

    You’ve stated my biggest concern. It seems we often take these natural things, like stevia, and say ‘hey, the tribes used it as a sweetener, its natural’. But these tribes didn’t live the same lifestyle we do and they also didn’t get it from a box. 🙂

    I see a lot of people using agave nectar. I have it on my list to research. I honestly don’t know anything about it at this point. I will do a post on it once I get my facts straight. I know a lot of people love it.

  • gastroanthropologist January 20, 2009 at 8:04 am

    But in the end the agave nectars, etc. are still fructose.

    If it tastes sweet, even if it is truly natural, it must be eaten in moderation.

    Sweetness signals safe in our brains (babies and breastmilk) so most are attracted to that taste. As we moderate sugar we learn to enjoy other tastes.

    But, sugar and sweetness always seem to triumph – I am always trying to keep my sweet tooth in check. It is a constant struggle.

  • Michelle January 20, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Man, they pulled the trigger on Stevia and that marketing team was all set with a logo and packaging and full flight of ads! I’ve bought stevia at Trader Joes and am not crazy about how it tastes, nevermind whether or not it’s healthy.

    In reference to agave nectar–I thought it was a godsend when i first discovered and though of course it’s fine in moderation and has the glorious benefit of being low on the glycemic idex, it really is a highly processed food that goes through a similar process as high fructose corn syrup.

  • Lori January 21, 2009 at 2:20 am

    striving green – Sorry, I missed replying to your comment earlier. Glad I could help with the article. It is a massive campaign, isn’t it? I’ve seen ads everywhere.

    gastro – A great point. It really comes down to how it is utilized in the body. I have to work to control my sweet tooth as well. I could pass up salty anytime. I always want sweet.

    Michelle – You’ve got me more interested in research agave nectar now. They were definitley ready for that approval, no doubt about that. I haven’t seen any commercials yet, but the ads are all over the (women’s especially) magazines. I guess Sprite Green is coming out soon. No doubt they are trying to appeal to some different types of people with that one.