Dietary Supplements & Natural Weight Loss | Natural Health Blog

Date: 08/01/2008    Written by: Jon Barron

Stevia Approved, Sort of

Diabetes Prevention

Move over aspartame and sucralose. A new, natural sweetener has finally come to market. The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill just announced the introduction of Truvia -- a zero-calorie sweetener derived from natural sources. But wait -- is the product really new? Not exactly. Truvia is a derivative of stevia -- that previously maligned sweetener that the FDA disparaged as a mere dietary supplement (upgraded from its previous status as an unsafe food additive).

On the newly launched Truvia website, the hype reports that "The stevia plant that Truvia™ natural sweetener originates from has been used in South America for sweetening foods and beverages for more than 200 years." The irony of that statement lies in the fact that although stevia has indeed been used safely in South America for at least five centuries (not two), and despite the fact that stevia largely replaced artificial sweeteners in Japan and China decades ago because of its superior safety record, the FDA wouldn't approve it as a food...until Coca Cola and Cargil got involved.

In fact, Martha Peiperl, an FDA spokesperson, said a few years ago, "....No one has ever provided FDA with adequate evidence that stevia is safe." She probably supported her judgment with several studies in which rats were given massive doses of stevia. One of those studies found a slight mutagenic effect in the presence of a specific metabolic activation system. Another found an infertility effect. But both of those studies were contradicted by subsequent research, which, apparently, Ms. Peiperl chose to ignore.

As I explained in my newsletter of October, 2007, despite Ms. Peiperl's claims, numerous studies support the safety of stevia. An overwhelming body of research has indicated, for years, that stevia is not only is safe, but that it actually has beneficial effects, including the ability to control obesity, enhance glucose tolerance, and reduce blood pressure. In 2004, an international symposium on "The Safety of Steviosid." was held at at the KU Leuven (Belgium). Scientists from all over the world concluded that stevia was safe, not absorbed by the gut, not mutagenic, not carcinogenic, and in fact, that it seemed to reduce certain types of cancers.

Contrast these findings with research on the lo-cal sweetener darlings of the FDA -- aspartame and sucralose. Aspartame has been implicated in 92 different health issues. The chemical phenylalanine, found in aspartame, kills brain cells. The FDA's own audit on aspartame admitted that it triggers brain tumors, mammary tumors, pancreatic tumors, ovarian tumors, pituitary adenoma, uterine tumors, and birth defects. And as for sucralose, the current superstar, it's already been implicated in a number of health issues, including shrunken thymuses.

So why has the FDA been so supportive of these other sweeteners? Aspartame has been approved by the FDA 26 times in the past 23 years and currently is found in 6000 products, in spite of the chilling evidence that it's a poison. And as for sucralose, with sales of almost a quarter of a billion dollars last year, it's fast closing in on aspartame as the diet industry's sweetener of choice. Why has the FDA allowed these sweeteners to dominate the market, while barring harmless stevia until now?

I hate to say I told you so (Not really. I love it.), but I called it last year when I wrote about stevia and the FDA. As I said in that newsletter, "We can be fairly sure that we will never see stevia approved for commercial use in Europe, Canada, and the US until one of those large corporate entities finds a way to patent it. But wait! Forgive my cynicism! Cargill and Coca Cola are doing just that even as we speak! I think we can look forward to an approval of stevia -- in a patented form -- in the not too distant future."

And voila! Here we are. As soon as Coke and Cargill were ready to patent stevia, the FDA miraculously produced research it can believe in. Coke and Cargill apparently submitted 12 studies supporting the safety of stevia to the FDA. Those studies appeared right away in Food and Chemical Toxicology, and lo and behold, each study was authored by someone with ties either to Coke or Cargill. As David Mendosa points out in an article on the Health Central website, "...the journal accepted the studies almost immediately upon submission. So, although Food and Chemical Toxicology is a peer-reviewed journal, it doesn't look as if any peers actually reviewed these studies."

Sleazy science notwithstanding, and even ignoring the FDA's proclivity to respond to industry needs over consumer health, it's about time that stevia -- a.k.a. truvia -- has finally been approved. There are enough pre-existing real studies and a 500-year history to prove its safety. But talk about loss of credibility for the FDA (hard to do when you start from such a low point). This represents a 180-degree reversal on a dime (or many millions of dimes, as it turns out) of a years'-old, line-in-the-sand position. Not that they had much credibility to begin with, but after this, who can believe anything the FDA says about alternative health products ever again? Very embarrassing!


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    Submitted by bolaji on
    August 18, 2008 - 3:20am

    fda is a total disgrace of some sorts to this great nation.

    Submitted by Carole Cole on
    August 18, 2008 - 5:30am

    I have been using Stevia for 23 years...before most anyone even knew what it was, before it lined any of the health food shelves... the company Sunrider International. Dr. Tei Fu Chen (the founder of the company, master herbalogist, chemist and pharmacist) has known the benefits of this plant for years. It's good for regulating blood sugar levels and nourishing the pancreas. Diabetics can use it and it's great for people with hypogylcemia and it taste better than any others that are out there because of the way it's processed. The leaves have to be dried a certain way for it to maintain it's sweetness or it becomes bitter tasting.

    Submitted by Kenneth Ervin on
    August 27, 2008 - 2:00pm

    Stevia is a great product and far superior to anything else on the market today. However, one huge drawback is its cost, which could be a determining factor with consumers.

    Submitted by Preston on
    August 2, 2008 - 3:35am

    I am very interested to see the results of this altered form of Stevia (i.e. Truvia). Whenever man thinks that he can improve on what Nature/God has already provided it generally results in disaster. Especially when driven by greed.
    Have you seen any indication of possible negative effects of this altered Stevia?

    Submitted by Ray Knox on
    September 15, 2008 - 3:24pm

    My local supermarket chain sells 50 pack Stevita brand Stevia for $2.55 which is in line with the brand name poisons. Ask your market about adding to their product line.

    Submitted by steve on
    August 2, 2008 - 6:20am

    Wait a minute folks. Sure stevia is safe and sweet. But that Rebiana used by cargill and pepsi is made by eluting natural stevia extracts with alcohol and then washing them with methanol (wood alcohol) or ethanol. Both washing solutions are unsafe and hardly 'natural' as they claim. Would you really want to ingest a sweetener washed in dragster fuel?? I wouldn't. The ONLY 100 percent natural stevia is SweetLeaf Sweetener. And it even tastes batter too.

    Submitted by Krisda Stevia on
    May 31, 2011 - 12:29pm

    There are a number of sweeteners on the market that claim to be stevia sweeteners when in actual fact they contain little to no stevia....and/or sugar. Krisda is NOT Fool's Stevia. Three types of Fool's Stevia are currently on the market:

    1) Failed Erythritol Sweeteners: In the recent past several manufacturers of erythritol attempted to launch sugar-free sweeteners made primarily of erythritol (1st ingredient in the ingredient list). Due to the laxative effect of the high concentration of erythritol and the odd taste of these products they failed to sell. Now, these same companies are trying again to launch the same erythritol sweeteners under the guise of stevia. They claim that their stevia sweetener products contain stevia yet do not have the bitter aftertaste common to stevia. In actual fact, there is little if any stevia in these products. One can tell because of the odd taste of the product (tastes like icing sugar) and the low price (stevia is expensive).

    2) Branded Fools Stevia for Sodas: Unlike artificial sweeteners, stevia cannot be patent protected and thus used by one manufacturer only as a competitive advantage. Stevia is a plant and thus the extract cannot be patent protected. It would be like trying to patent orange juice from oranges. Also, unlike artificial sweeteners stevia is expensive. The inability to patent and the cost of stevia presents a problem for soda manufacturers that want to have a patentable and inexpensive sugar-free sweetener that the competition can't use....similar to what Diet Coke had with the artificial sweetener Nutrasweet. So, soda companies have launched Fool's Stevia under brand names they have created which they heavily advertise to make consumers aware of the brand. In the near future they will then put these branded sweeteners in their soda with the hope that consumers will be loyal to their soda brand because of the branded sweetener used. Unfortunately for consumers, these sweeteners have little to no stevia.

    3) Sugar + Stevia Sweeteners: In an effort to protect their large artificial sweetener brand a company has launched a sugar sweetener with a very small amount of stevia. The sugar is then marketed as a calorie reduced sugar made with stevia. In actual fact what this manufacturer is trying to do is fool consumers into thinking that stevia is a sugar additive rather than a sugar replacement. That is, stevia is added to sugar to make it healthier rather than used instead of sugar. In doing so they are attempting to defend and save their artificial sweetener business. If consumers are fooled into thinking that stevia is to be added to sugar then they are more likely to see artificial sweeteners as the only sugar replacements.

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