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Stevia-based Sweeteners: FDA Approved After 10+ Years. So, Why Now?

What is Stevia?

Stevia Rebaudiana is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of South America.

When extracted from the leaf of the stevia plant, Rebiana becomes the natural, non-caloric sweetener that has just recently been GRAS-approved by the FDA (“Generally “Recognized As Safe”). What’s the big deal, you ask about whole food stevia extract?

History of Stevia – Banned by FDA in 1991

Well, in 1991, stevia was banned by the FDA, which stated that “toxicological information on stevia [was] inadequate to demonstrate stevia safety.”

Four years later, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act forced the FDA to permit it as a dietary supplement. Fast forward to December 2008: the FDA gave a “no objection” approval for GRAS status to Truvia, (developed by Cargill and The Coca-Cola Company) and PureVia, (developed by PepsiCo and the Whole Earth Sweetener Company, a subsidiary of Merisan,  makers of aspartame), both of which are derived from the Stevia plant. They both contain Rebiana, or Rebaudioside A. The isolation process for Reb A results in a product that delivers the desired sweetness without a bitter aftertaste.

Pure Stevia Extract Versus Chemically-Refined Truvia, and PureVia

pic-stevia-plantPure stevia extract must continue to be labeled as a “dietary supplement” because the FDA has not actually permitted the stevia plant itself to be used as a food additive, only the chemically-refined Reb A extract. All of the products containing pure stevia are forced to reside amongst the other supplements in any given health food store, not on the shelves where all the other foods and beverages are placed.

The pressure to approve a natural sweetener was also due, in part, to the myriad of adverse health risks being reported to the FDA by many who consumed artificial sweeteners, like aspartame (sold as NutriSweet, or Equal), sucralose (sold as Splenda), or saccharin (sold as Sweet-N-Low).

Regardless of its prior ban and classification of stevia, the FDA has no choice but to approve Truvia, and PureVia, when both Pepsi and Coca-Cola wanted to use the Rebiana-based sweeteners in their respective product lines. If the FDA decided not to approve them as safe food additives, then those particular bottles of Pepsi and Coke containing the herb would have only been accessible in the supplement aisle. Clearly, that would never happen!

Focus on Aspartame and Its Dangers

pic-aspartameAspartame, is a molecule composed of three ingredients: 40% aspartic acid (an excitotoxin: as an isolate, a product that stimulates the neurons of the brain to death, causing brain damage), 10% methyl ester that immediately converts to methyl alcohol, which then breaks down to formaldehyde (embalming fluid) and formic acid (ant sting poison), and 50% phenylalanine, (as an isolate, a neurotoxin that lowers the seizure threshold and depletes serotonin, triggering psychiatric and behavioral problems). The molecule itself breaks down into multiple toxins, including diketopiperazine, an agent that triggered brain tumors in original studies. It’s important to note that the FDA has, to-date, received more complaints about adverse reactions to aspartame than any other food ingredient in the agency’s history. There is an enlightening documentary on the subject called Sweet Misery – The Truth About Aspartame which exposes Aspartame Dangers.

Focus on Truvia and PureVia

Consumers who shop in grocery stores and supermarkets will now find they have a healthier alternative to NutriSweet and other artificial sweeteners.

pic-truvia-ingredientsThe two new products, Truvia and PureVia, could be patented because they are not 100% stevia extract, the first listed ingredient is Erythritol (a naturally fermented sugar alcohol), and Rebiana, as well as other “natural flavors.” Excessive consumption of Erythritol (over 80 grams per day) may result in digestive upset, diarrhea, and bloating.

Both of these sweeteners can be purchased in boxes of small packets. Truvia  is an ingredient in some new Coca-Cola products, within its’ Odwalla  line. PureVia will be an ingredient in some new PepsiCo products, such as Sobe LifeWater and Trop50,  a light orange juice product.

“Although stevia today is sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement, rebiana [is] the first available sweetener that has been purified from the stevia plant. Unlike many existing stevia products, which generally contain [unrefined] extracts of the plant, rebiana is…consistent in quality,” said the Truvia manufacturer, Cargill.

This is supposed to be great news for consumers, but it begs the question: Why did it take corporate giants like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to get the FDA to finally provide consumers with a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners?

Answers to Questions on Aspartame & Artificial Sweeteners

The answer is found in multiple places.

pic-aspartame-brain-tumorsFirst, look on the nutrition label of any so-called “diet” product or anything labeled ‘sugar-free.” Unfortunately, many people believe they’re doing a service to their body by consuming these products, when in reality, they are doing much harm on a cellular level. Studies also confirm that people who consume artificial sweeteners actually tend to overeat because the artificial sweeteners “turn off” the part of your brain that let’s you know you’re full. And many people are of the mentality that because they are drinking “diet” soda, it’s okay to eat super-sized French fries. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Normally, when a significant quantity of carbohydrates are consumed, serotonin levels rise in the brain. This is manifested as a relaxed feeling after a meal. When aspartame is ingested with carbohydrates, such as having a sandwich with a diet drink, aspartame causes the brain to cease production of serotonin, meaning that the feeling of having had enough never materializes. You then eat more foods, many containing aspartame, and the cycle continues.” And because it is nearly impossible to avoid aspartame when consuming “diet” products, many people report adverse health conditions from its use.

Let me reiterate a point made earlier: The FDA has received more complaints about adverse reactions to aspartame than any other food ingredient in the agency’s history. (Yet, it’s still on the market in full force.)

Show Me The Money

The other part of the answer comes down to money, as most things concerning big corporations and government organizations do. “Monsanto’s profit from its NutraSweet Division was $993 million [back] in 1990.” Imagine what that number is today! And because stevia extract itself cannot be patented because it is a naturally grown plant –  as opposed to an artificial sweetener created in a lab with chemicals – it was not a high priority of the FDA’s or any corporation’s because they were making tons of money selling their artificial sweeteners to manufacturers.

Aspartame alone is in over 10,000 consumer products. Now that those corporations have figured out how to patent a stevia alternative by creating their own blend of ingredients containing a derivative of the stevia plant, there’s money to be made.

The irony is that records indicate stevia extract and the leaves of the plant have been used since 1887, when natural scientist, Antonio Bertoni first recorded its usage by native tribes , while artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, were passed through FDA approvals in no time.

We know that 100% organic stevia extract is safe and truly all-natural, there are no known stevia side effects. However, when giant corporations stand to gain by altering, or adding to, Mother Nature (and the FDA passes swift approval), proceed with some caution. If you decide to switch to Truvia or PureVia, or any of the other Rebiana-based sweeteners that are sure to come to market, be mindful of how they affect you. Each person reacts differently to foods, beverages and sweeteners. So, as with all things we put into our bodies, please use these products in moderation.

The Blaylock Wellness Report

pic-blaylock-wellness-reportsI’ll leave you with this bit of advice from neurosurgeon and leading expert on excitotoxins, Russell Blaylock, M.D., on these Rebiana-based sweeteners. In The Blaylock Wellness Report, he says “Until Truvia is analyzed, my personal opinion is continue to boycott Coke and Pepsi who have participated in the mass poisoning of the world with full knowledge (aspartame). If you just have to have a cola regardless, [have a natural cola made] with citric acid and sugar. I recommend using healthy drinks instead, and Whole Foods has an aisle full of them. They ban aspartame and Splenda.”

The author of this article, Kelly Campbell is President and Founder of TheHolisticOption.com, a health community for the whole you. The resource and social community has been called “the WebMD of natural health and wellness.” TheHolisticOption.com allows visitors and community members alike to browse and comment on natural remedies, articles, videos, blogs, podcast episodes and natural products, as well as fully-vetted, holistic practitioners throughout the U.S.,  for free! To learn more, visit > TheHolisticOption.com.


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  1. Your article is very insightful, although it fails to mention SweetLeaf Sweetener. This product IS a stevia sweetener that is GRAS approved, and it is not a chemically produced pure Reb A product like Rebiana, the base of both Truvia and PureVia. There is no such thing as Rebiana in nature, or in a stevia plant. Rebiana is created under laboratory conditions by chemically splitting the stevioside molecule with ethanol or metanol, to create a Reb A molecule. This leaves a residual of methanol or ethanol in your sweetener. Would you want to put car fuel in your coffee or tea?? I didn’t think so, but that is precisely what you are doing when you use Truvia and PureVia. SweetLeaf Sweetener is the ONLY 100% natural stevia sweetener that is made using ONLY purified water…no residual chemicals because chemicals are not used in the process. Sweetness as nature intended. SweetLeaf Sweetener.

  2. Hi Steve, We couldn’t agree with you more! Thanks so much for pointing out the high quality of SweetLeaf. Personally, we have used Sweetleaf for years and love the quality. You might enjoy reading a post we did a while back > SweetLeaf Stevia Dietary Supplement, a safe natural sweetener. The point of this article is that SweetLeaf has had to market their products as a dietary supplement and not allowed to market the natural stevia products as natural sugar alternatives. Now here comes a large corporation that wants to do so, and they are immediately approved, but smaller companies that produce higher quality options are still struggling with regulations.

  3. Uhhhh, Ethanol is in your alcoholic beverage at vastly greater levels than you could possibly get by putting one of the Reb A sweeteners in your coffee. But hey love the free advertising. JO.

  4. Very informative, thanks. I’ll check out the sweet leaf sweetener, sounds like it’s the real deal.

  5. So how many grams of Erythritol in a packet of Truvia?

  6. We use Truvia and love the taste. My concern is the Erythritol, how safe is it for someone who has alcohol addiction and is in remission?

  7. LR it will probably start fermenting in your gut then attack your liver, slowly but surely. Chances are you will start craving alcohol in a few months if you don’t quit it.

  8. Very interesting and informative. The fact that Pepsi and Coca Cola are behind Truvia and Purevia is a sure sign that I will no longer buy either product and stick with pure Stevia which I buy at Trader Joes. I just this week bought my first box of Truvia and was very suspect that it is packaged like Splenda. I was trying to find out if it actually had sugar in it like Splenda does. Also, I am a recovering alcoholic and will use nothing to endanger my sobriety. So Truvia goes in the trash when I get home. One other warning, The Belly Fat Cure by Jorge Cruise has this product as “belly good,” that may be true, but it doesn’t sound like it’s “liver good.”

  9. Please be aware that their are serious side effects to Truvia.This is based on my personal experience with the
    product. In the hopes, of decreasing my sugar intake, I tried Truvia. In 8 hours after using only one packet, I was sick as a dog with severe vomiting and diarrhea, along with unbelievable body aches and neck pain. I personally have reported this to the FDA. I believe there should be a warning placed on the box and also a stream with their TV ad.

  10. Can stevia cause infertility? — No, who would have told you that?

  11. I tried the product PureVia and I have now broken out from it. I will report this to the hospital I am going to.

  12. Why did I break out from PureVia?

  13. Esmeralda Powell

    Is PureVia safe for diabetics? I am looking for an alternative sugar that won’t affect my blood sugar and cause it to rise dramatically.

  14. Since I read that Erythritol was safe, I thought I would try the new “Truvia.” Big mistake. Since I didn’t know what rebiana was, I looked it up on the Internet. Lo-and-behold it was Stevia. I won’t buy Truvia now that I know it is really Stevia, and they don’t have nerve enough to let consumers know that. It is a deceptive advertising practice if you ask me!

    • Stevia is wonderful, and some of the best Stevia is actually from a company out of Oregon, NuNaturals. I don’t by over processed Stevia products from large manufacturers because they over process the Stevia, and who knows what remaining natural elements are still in the product. Just like I wouldn’t use Nutrasweet or sweet n low because they are synthetic, and for the most part the body does not recognize synthetics nor know exactly how to process them. Zevia a new soda drink just came out and it is wonderful. It is made with Stevia (which has been used for centuries safely, and Erythritol, which was discovered in the mid 1800’s and is a safe alcohol sugar that won’t upset your digestive system like others do. Erythinol is really a smart choice to blend with Stevia. The Zevia soda’s are exceptionally good, and may actually have some health benefits! Also, for those who love to sweeten their coffee, try the liquid English Toffee, and Vanilla stevia that you can find in most health food stores, and also whole food markets. NuNaturals carriers a yummy vanilla one. Oh, click Erythritol You won’t get bubbles!

  15. Concerned Citizen

    I notice that I get a watery mouth after drinking my coffee with PureVia. I get spit bubbles that won’t stop and I keep having to swallow for hours, which of course then gives me gas. I bought it at Ralph’s grocery store in L.A. where it was marked at a discontinued discount at more than half off. I’m on this site to see if anyone else experienced these issues with Purevia. Does anyone know why it would be discontinued at our store? Tried Truvia before and don’t recall these problems. Don’t get that problem drinking coffee with organic sugar and never got it with Splenda, Nutrasweet or sweet-n-low before I stopped using them either.

  16. I sometimes use pure stevia, but recently bought some tropicana O J with truevia by mistake. It had some kind of concoction of stevia. This O J was horrible. I can’t believe this product is on the market. I know people that like artificial sweetener will probably buy this stuff, but as for me, this is awful.

  17. I purchased a box of Truvia last Friday and drank many cups of coffee this weekend. I normally drink 6 to 9 cups of coffee during the weekend and add two envelopes of Truvia to the coffee. I did not feel any change in my digestive system. Maybe some gases were eliminated. I tried Stevia in a raw first and the taste is a little bitter compared to Truvia. So I decide to purchase the Truvia. I experience some headaches but those are related to the sugar withrawl not to Truvia itself.

  18. Well truvia is better than aspartame by far. The reason is that truvia is natural and aspartame is a chemical. Also aspartame puts holes in your brain so I much prefer to use truvia.

  19. I purchased Truvia three months ago and fell in love with it. I have purchased 5 or 6 boxes since then. I have been noticing a lot of changes to my health. For over 3 weeks now I have had a catch in my back, I am not saying it is from using Truvia. The reason I started looking up Truvia complaints was because my weight gain. I was in a size 6 when I began using Truvia in December. Now I have gained to where I am needing to purchase size 10 and 12 clothing. I have not changed my diet except for my artificial sweetener. Needless to say after my research today, I am changing back to my not-so-good sweetener. I hope my excess weight goes away not to mention this catch in my back. Really I believe someone really needs to look into this product a little more thoroughly. By the way, I do experience loose bowels.

  20. I started using this product because I had an “accident” with aspartame. It turned into formaldehyde and built up in my system until I started to hallucinate. I thought it was due to my schizophrenia, but a careful study of my vitals alerted me that I was poisoned around that time. I have since quit drinking it, and I’ve noticed clearer thinking. I can’t eat a lot of sugar because I’m fat, so I’m trying this stuff. It seems some people are allergic to it, but after my research, it doesn’t seem to cause the brain problems that aspartame does. In fact, some of my symptoms of schizophrenia could be attributed to drinking aspartame. I haven’t seen any since trying this product.

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