Warning: Stevia Sweeteners May NOT Be as Natural as You Think

Stevia may not be so natural

Dieters in the US were introduced to stevia sweeteners just a few years ago, after they received the coveted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status from the FDA. Finally, a zero calorie sweetener that comes from the leaves of a plant, not some chemical formula made in a lab.

The stevia plant is something you can grow in your backyard or windowsill. The leaves, when chewed, are sweet. Processing the leaves into a powder sweetener results in a non-caloric extract that is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. The extract is added to a bulking powder to bring it to the same sweetness level as sugar, and sold under various trade names.

stevia plant

One example, is the product Truvia, manufactured by Cargill, a global agricultural commodity business with $100 billion in annual sales. The extracting process has been patented by Cargill, and their stevia extract is called Rebaudioside A (Reb A).

A Hawaii woman is now suing Cargill in a class action suit for misleading consumers about Truvia. Denise Howerton bought Truvia based on Cargill’s claims that it was more natural than other zero calorie sweeteners Nutrasweet (aspartame). However, she soon discovered that “Natural” is a flexible term:

To get from a stevia leaf to Reb A, a long chemical process is employed. But Cargill describes the process as similar to extracting flavor from tea leaves. Perhaps the first step is similar, but the following ones are not: ethanol, methanol and/or rubbing alcohol are then employed to extract the sweetener.

The bulking agent added to Reb A is erythritol, a sugar alcohol that is synthetically manufactured in a lab. It starts as GMO corn, which goes through hydrolysis to turn it into starch. It is then treated with yeast to ferment it into the end result.

Truvia’s packaging and marketing materials promise “Nature’s Calorie Free Sweetener” and “Truvia sweetener comes from nature”, but 99% of the sweetener is actually the GMO bulking agent.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you do choose to sweeten your food and beverages with stevia, please follow our five tips for choosing the least processed stevia.

What do you think? Is Truvia a natural sweetener? Do you use it?

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  • Cloes

    I use Truvia. I like the taste, it has no effect on my blood sugar, it doesn’t give me headaches like aspartame.

    • cherylmeril

      Well then, you’re clearly the kind to keep on sinning after you read the Bible too, right? If it feels good do it and forget the consequences of it to your body. If Moses came out with the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai for you, you’d just keep on worshipping the golden calf idol Have fun self destructing then. You must hate yourself to do that to your body.

      • Haylee

        Wow really? Chill our Cheryl, I’d hardly compare consuming stevia to sinning.

        • cherylmeril

          I can’t think of why anyone after reading this article would continue on with the same attitude. It’s almost as if you’re just disregarding it all. The fact you just ignored the warnings of the effects on your health, that which God has given you as part of life, and go on partaking in the same activity while praising it, is highly metaphorical reflecting your subconscious need to ignore warnings and rebel against God as such. The person’s comment right after yours is much more wise “what about organic Stevia?” Looking for solutions to the problem whereas you just go into complete denial. It reflects how you handle problems in life by simply ignoring the facts.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VV9jEbvAli8&feature=youtu.be

          • Andrew Eckhardt

            @cherylmeril

            I hope everyone actually clicks the link you added to your comment so they can discern for themselves what type of person is making these comments.

          • erinvalynn

            @cherylmeril:disqus
            I’m religious and I work for Wisdom Natural Brands, the makers of SweetLeaf Stevia, but I think you are looking WAY too much into Cloes’s comment.

      • RussL

        Dogmatic much?

  • Beth

    What about organic stevia?

  • Randiclam

    My dad and I discovered that Truvia was fake a few months ago at our local supplement store. We have now switched over to an organic stevia extract that proves so in the ingredient list. I feel so bad for people who are tricked into thinking this Truvia crap is real stevia extract, like we did. Thank you Fooducate :)

  • jane

    I tried it once. Decided I didn’t like it. It’s nice to know I’m not really missing anything.

  • marcymrp

    YES. Thank you Fooducate. There aren’t enough hours in the day for those of us with jobs other than yours to uncover all the unethical food producers and their vile products. I’m sooo glad y’all are doing it because we don’t have time to be a detective about EVERY little thing we consume. It’s even MORE vile when we find a company that is aware of our concerns about health and openly violates our trust!

  • Gerry Buck

    Quit using this stuff a long time ago. i follow a natural foods site and they reported on the poison these companies use to ‘naturally’ extract the sweetness from the leaves.

    We might be better off drying the leaves and powdering them ourselves.

  • http://www.healthy-lifestyle-trainer.com/ Mike Luque

    I’m confused. There are people who are shocked that something produced by Cargill isn’t all that healthy for you??

  • Vitality TV

    So glad that you have written this piece – have thought for a while that stevia’s downfall is going to be its popularity – didn’t think it would be long until we saw chemically altered stevia. Why do we always have to mess about with things?!

  • Carol L

    I agree that Truvia is not a good choice for stevia users. I use the pure stevia extract in glycerin that is sold under the New Leaf label at our local natural foods store in Santa Cruz, CA. There are other stevia extracts that do not include additives like erithritol, but there are no soft drinks, to my knowledge, that do not include erithritol. Erithritol is not good; I get negative physical symptoms from it , every time I have tried those drinks–advertised as sweetened with stevia– that have erithritol.