Monday, October 26, 2009
a new product is about to start appearing on our store shelves -
Truvia. It's a product manufactured by Cargill and Coca-Cola, that
takes extracts of the stevia plant to produce a highly sweet substance
with zero calories. Another alternative to sugar. You'll start to see
diet pop and other beverages that will be marketed as health products,
as well as the product itself available for purchase in the not too
distant future. There is also some word that Pepsi Co. has its version
coming out as well, coined Purevia.
Anything in that paragraph
got your Spidey senses on alert? It should. The first thing to raise my
suspicions is the fact that the product has been manufactured
based on extracts from the Stevia plant. Stevia has been available for
many many years, and in fact has been used for over 1500 years in South
America where the herb originates. The second thing that triggers
questions for me is the fact that it has been patented
by Coke, no less). Why do we suddenly need a patented product to make
this available to us? It turns out that Stevia itself, while available
for purchase as a "nutritional supplement" has not been approved for
"regular use" as a food additive, as not enough testing has been done
for it to be recognized as safe. There are concerns that it may disrupt
hormone levels in some individuals and may become a factor in
infertility (in fact some evidence does point that it may have been
used as a contraception in some South American tribes), as well as
potentially having negative impacts to the cardiovascular and renal
systems. These potential side effects need to be explored.
Meantime, Cargill and Coke have now taken
active ingredient of Stevia, and combined it with other chemicals, to
create Truvia, and somehow THIS has been found to be GRAS (generally
recognized as safe). And it is going to start appearing in products
that are being consumed often in large quantities. That's convenient...
and profitable! Lucky Cargill and Coke!
It's yet another
experiment I will choose not to take part in. I'd rather take my
chances with the pure whole leaf, than with an extract of it. As we
know, often it is the synergistic properties of different parts of a
food that not only enables its healthful properties, but also helps to
mitigate or prevent its possible dangerous properties. Although,
frankly, to my lips, Stevia tastes a little "asparatame-ish" so I tend
not to use it anyway. I'd really prefer to stick with the old fashioned
whole stuff if I really need a sweetener - maple syrup (heaven on
earth!), honey, and maaaaybe agave nectar (maybe).
By the way,
you may be wondering, why Stevia can be purchased as a "dietary
supplement" in health food stores if it hasn't been approved as GRAS?
The reason is that natural health products are not regulated by the
government. And while there are definitely consumer and human rights
that come into play with regards to the issue of whether the government
should or shouldn't be regulating these substances (a whole other
topic... after all, they are also the ones that approve aspartame and
splenda or MSG, etc etc, as GRAS), this is an example that does serve
to illustrate that we need to take responsibility for ourselves by
researching our choices and learning about them before blindly
accepting what marketing gurus, the government, and even health food
proponents tell us.