Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coca-Cola's New Stevia Product: "Truvia"

You won't believe this. The Coca-Cola Company has come out with a "healthy" sweetener that is now available to consumers. It is a stevia-derived sweetener that has no calories, and is now being marketed as "Truvia: A healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners." "Rebiana" is the trade name for this sweetener, probably named after the compound Rebaudioside A, which they isolated from the stevia plant. The reason they have isolated this compound is because it is apparently the sweet part of the plant separated from its usual bitter aftertaste. I do not know how much processing is involved in turning the stevia leaf into "Truvia", but I am guessing from the tiny, pure white granules that there is quite a bit of processing involved. Could we be looking at the same sort of processing that goes on with sugar cane and sugar beets? These are healthy plants--until they have been processed to death!

What I find highly amusing is that stevia has been used as a sweetener for years (for centuries in some countries) and has health benefits including: treating obesity, high-blood pressure, glucose intolerance and diabetes, to name a few. The amusing part is that despite stevia's health benefits and ability to be used as an alternative sweetener, in 1991 it was ousted by the FDA. The FDA labeled stevia "unsafe" and banned it until 1994 when the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act got the FDA to revise their stance. Even then, however, it was only considered safe to be used as a dietary supplement, not a food additive!

Here is what has happened over the years: Coca-Cola comes out with soda in the late 1800's. It is loaded with sugar and two main ingredients: cocaine and caffeine. They reconfigure the ingredients after 1904. The company is under the constant watch of nutritionists because of the links between its soda and diabetes, obesity, caffeine addiction and other health issues. In 1985 Coca-Cola switches its formula again. They now no longer use white refined sugar. It is now cheaper to use high fructose corn syrup. They are still under careful watch because corn syrup has its own list of negative side effects. The company is still under careful watch for using other controversial ingredients like sodium benzoate. In 2005 they come out with a soda containing Splenda and aspartame. Artificial sweeteners. Coca-Cola is currently working on phasing out the ingredient sodium benzoate, which has been linked directly to DNA damage and hyperactivity in children. They say they will phase it out as soon as they find an alternative ingredient to use in its place. Now, it's 2008 and they have produced Truvia, which sounds like a nice, natural sweetener to get the health nuts out there to lay off. But, not so fast! How is this processed? What are the effects of consuming this product, short term and long term? Is it still capable of being a health tool and treating obesity and diabetes? Or have those constiuents been left out because of the mildly bitter aftertaste?

What has happened is that Coca-Cola can not last without revamping their product model. It is common knowledge that their ingredients are less than desirable, have been studied to show health risks, and they don't want to be sued! They are going to jump on the "natural sweetener" gravy train, if you will, and offer a product to people who will believe they now have unprecedented rights to consume all they want without any risk. Imagine the FDA banning stevia now. It's never going to happen now that the giant, multi-billion dollar Coke company has begun using it. How they have been using it is still in question.
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Gina C said...

Interesting thought on the process of Truvia. Hadn't thought of that. I just did a taste comparison on Truvia and other Stevia products and Truvia definitely tastes better, not bitter. I'll be posting my results in a few days.

Jolie said...

I used to use Splenda, but after reading "Skinny Bitch," I have changed so many of my health habits. I had heard of stevia, and Truvia claims to be derived from it. I've thought about using it, but as the old addage goes, "If something sounds too good to be probably is."

william.gray48 said...

Processed sugar is known to involved in sugar melitus, Diabetes Type I and II, Tooth decay, Cardiovascular diseases, on and on. Especially significant is that this evidence was available from Southeast Asian Islands where peoples had been documented for health by missionaries, before and after processing of sugar. Healthy before, but not after. Do you expect FDA to be your safeguard, after they outlawed raw sugar, allowing only highly processed cane sugar in this country? I don't. Lobbyist seem to matter more than our health. This is a disturbing thought about what would appear to be a healthy turn. What about Aspartame (Legal) a Penylketonuric, with known Links to Lupus an other Leukocyte related diseas.