Tag Archives: truvia

Pastel Packets

If I walk into any restaurant, deli, coffee shop in the United State  there will be a sugar packet caddy.  My choices are  pink, sunny yellow, pale blue, (saccharin, sucralose and aspartame).  Sometimes one has to ask to get the classic white packet.   New to the caddy is happy green.   I was startled to find out the Americans consume 16 pounds per person of zero-calorie sweeteners .  The choice to use them is an attempt to quench the insatiable American sweet tooth without the calories.  Unfortunately there is no evidence that people who consume non-calorie sweeteners lose weight.  In some instances, they gain it.

The new kid in the caddy  comes with an interesting history and another load of false promises.  Truvia or Purevia are trade names for the new zero calorie sweetener.  Once again we are being led to believe that THIS ONE is somehow different, more natural.

Stevia  is an herb native to Paraguay.  The annual plant grows 1-2 feet tall with pale green leaves.  The leaves can be gathered and dried then ground to a fine powder or steeped in water to make a liquid. The chemical substance in the stevia plant responsible for the sweetness is rebiana.  It is said to be 300X sweeter than sugar – one teaspoon of stevia equals the sweetness of one cup sugar.  Plus stevia is low in calories – 1/10 of a calorie per leaf.  Our own Center for Science in the Public Interest seemed nonplussed about the sweetener.  They cited the Scientific Committee on Food for the European Commission which concluded that “there are no satisfactory data to support the safe use of these products [stevia plants and leaves].”   CSPI’s round-up on stevia also cited pro-stevia articles to be fair.  That’s good because other experts felt stevia’s use was perfectly safe,  a suitable sweetener for diabetics.

Because the FDA would not give stevia the rubber stamp as a food, it stayed out of mainstream food products and was only sold as a “supplement”.  The plant came to the forefront  in 2008 when  Cargill and the Coca Cola company teamed up to patent a new no-calorie sweetener using rebiana.  The problem is that this new “natural” sweetener is it not a made by a simple grind or steep of stevia leaves.  Though trade secrets are highly guarded, we do know that  Truvia combines  rebiana with erythritol, a sugar alcohol.  Though there may be a lack of long-term studies supporting human consumption of rebiana, there are plenty condemning ingestion of erythritol.  In studies (true, done with rats) there is an increased elimination of protein in the urine and in some cases kidney calcification.  Read more here from the Quality Systems, GMP, Regulatory site.

The caddies full of pastel packets seem so friendly, so normal, so reliable. Just some innocent granules to sweeten the coffee or tea.  Every few years a new color is added as evidence mounts up against the pink, blue or yellow.  I say stick with the sweeteners where we have lots of history and research about the detrimental affects.  I shake and tear the classic white, light brown or add dab of honey.  Calories be damned.  What do you stir into your ice tea?

Sweet, Popular and Size Zero

Her name is “Truvia” aka “PureVia”.  Well that was before the transformation.   Before that, she was just a green plant named “Stevia”.  And popularity in the U.S. did not come easy.  It took some major players with big bucks to bring her to the American food stage.

I was first introduced to Stevia in the 80’s in New York.  Everything about Stevia was on the down low.  I had to buy Stevia from a “friend” and it came in a little bottle labeled ‘Sun Care”.  Not kidding.  That’s because for nearly 20 years the FDA would not recognize Stevia as a food.  In 1995 the FDA moved to permit Stevia to be used as a dietary/food supplement, but would not give its full stamp of approval on Stevia as a food additive.  No one seems to know exactly why.  Some guess it was to protect the companies manufacturing artifical sweeteners.

Stevia is an herb native to Paraguay, an annual that grows 1-2’ tall with pale 1216steviagreen leaves.  The leaves can be gathered and dried then ground to a fine powder or steeped in water to make a liquid.  The “Sun Care” product I used in the 80’s was a reduced steep – slightly thick liquid.  Stevia is really sweet;  300X sweeter than sugar meaning you only needs one teaspoon of Stevia to equal the sweetness in 1 cup of sugar.  Stevia is also low in calories – 1/10 of a calorie per leaf – virtually zero.

Stevia has been popular in Japan since the 1970’s.  The Japanese began to prohibit the use of artificial laboratory-made chemical sweeteners due to health concerns – duh. Convinced of the safety of Stevia and Stevioside (a crystallized extract of the Stevia leaf)  Japan approved them as sweeteners and flavor enhancers for food use.

The plant was approved as a food additive in a dozen countries besides Japan including Brazil and China, but not in the United States. Until 2008 when Coca Cola and Cargill wanted to use an active ingredient from the plant, rebaudioside A , to create the no-calorie sweetener Truvia.  So 18 years after the FDA deemed it unsafe, Stevia is granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status.  Sweet.  PureVia  is PepsiCo’s brand name for stevia-based sweetener packs.

There are questions of course.  Will the derivative of the plant work the same as the WHOLE plant?  Are there any negative long-term affects?  Will consumers go for the taste (a bitter aftertaste to some, tastes like saccharin to me)?  And finally will the intense sweetness bring on a desire for carbohydrates as shown by other zero calorie sweeteners?  Don’t know.  Chime in.  What color will the packet of Truvia at Starbucks be?