Truvia is a zero-calorie sweetener that comprises rebiana, natural flavors, and a type of sugar alcohol. This Buzzle write-up provides information on the benefits and safety concerns associated with the use of this product.
It was in 2008 that the Food and Drug Administration of the United States granted the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status to the use of rebiana or rebaudioside A (a steviol glycoside isolated from the stevia leaf) in sweeteners. It must be noted that the sale of the whole Stevia rebaudiana leaf as a food additive or sweetener is banned by the FDA.
Native to South and Central America, the stevia plant is quite popular for its sweet-tasting leaves. It is the presence of diterpene glycosides such as stevioside and rebaudioside that impart a sweet flavor to the leaves. It has been used as a sweetener for centuries in these regions. In fact, it is also grown in Asia, with Japan being the largest consumer of stevia. It has been used in Japan since 1970, with stevia-based artificial sweeteners accounting for about 40% of the sweetener industry. One of the main reasons for its increasing popularity is the fact that it is a zero-calorie sweetener. In the United States, the FDA had only given the approval for stevia to be marketed as a dietary supplement. However, after the GRAS status was granted to the purified component of stevia called rebaudioside A, artificial sweeteners containing rebiana/rebaudioside A are being marketed under the trade names such as Truvia and PureVia.
Truvia, which is developed by Cargill and Coca-Cola, is a stevia sweetener that contains rebiana, as well as erythritol. As per the FDA, its recommended daily dosage should not exceed 1.3 mg/kg of body weight for healthy adults. On the other hand, the World Health Organization’s Joint Experts Committee on Food Additives agreed on the acceptable daily intake of steviol glycoside up to 4 mg/kg of body weight.
What is Truvia Made Of?
To understand whether Truvia is safe for consumption or not, one should have an idea about its ingredients and their properties. The ingredients of Truvia include:
✦ Rebaudioside A
✦ Natural flavors
It would not be correct to call Truvia a natural Stevia product. However, the reason why the manufacturers call it a natural sweetener is due to the presence of rebaudioside, which is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. Rebaudioside A is a non-caloric glycoside that is believed to be 300 times sweeter than sucrose. It has a licorice-like aftertaste, which is why erythritol and natural flavors are added to it.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is also used as a bulking agent to provide sugar-like appearance and texture. It also helps improve the flavor. It doesn’t provide as many calories as sugar. It is naturally found in certain fruits, and often added to artificial sweeteners. It doesn’t cause tooth decay. Studies that have been conducted on stevia leaf extract as well as erythritol have revealed that these don’t cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Thus, Truvia can be used as a sugar substitute by diabetics. The FDA has granted the GRAS status to this sugar alcohol, and it can be used as a food additive. The reason behind the low calories (0.24 calories per gram) is the fact that the body cannot metabolize most of the erythritol. A substantial part of it is excreted unchanged in the urine. However, if consumed in large quantities, it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
Safety Concerns Regarding Truvia
Concerns have been raised regarding the claims made by the manufacturers. First of all, many people are of the opinion that Truvia shouldn’t be compared to Stevia, as these are two different products. The former only contains Rebaudioside A, which is isolated from the leaves of the stevia plant. The manufacturers state that the process of isolation of Rebaudioside A is similar to making tea, wherein the leaves are steeped in water and the sweet extract is purified to provide a calorie-free sweet taste. However, those who advocate against the use of Truvia believe that this sweetener should not be referred to as a natural sweetener, as the sweet glycoside that is extracted from the stevia leaves is chemically processed. Moreover, they also state that most of the studies conducted on this product have been sponsored by the manufacturers itself.
Concerns have also been raised regarding erythritol, which is the largest ingredient in this product. Being a sugar alcohol, excess consumption of erythritol could cause certain untoward effects. Most of the side effects are gastrointestinal in nature, and are associated with large doses. The side effects include:
✦ Abdominal cramps
✦ Bad breath
This product should be completely avoided if one develops an allergic reaction after its consumption. The symptoms that indicate an allergic reaction include:
✦ Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat
✦ Difficulty breathing
✦ Difficulty swallowing
Is Truvia Safe for Pregnant Women and Nursing Mothers?
Certain animal studies that were conducted in the 1980s to study the effects of stevia had linked stevia derivatives to genetic mutations in rats along with untoward effects on reproductive development and fertility. However, recent studies show that it can be safely consumed by pregnant women as well as nursing mothers. Safety studies that have been conducted on the effects of the use of rebaudioside on pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers have revealed that this extract doesn’t have negative effects on overall health, reproduction, or fertility, as well as the development of the fetus. This explains why the Food and Drug Administration granted the GRAS status to rebaudioside. However, women should consult their healthcare provider before they start taking this sweetener while they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Several studies suggest that there’s a lack of evidence on the adverse effects of Truvia, with one of the studies being conducted by the World Health Organization. However, it is advisable to take it as per the recommended doses. Adverse effects could occur in the event of excessive intake, which might be encouraged by the fact that Truvia is a zero-calorie sweetener.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.