Stevia and Rebiana: Facts and Myths
In case you haven't met, let me introduce you to rebiana, a zero-calorie sweetener from the stevia plant. Stevia is a South American shrubby herb that is grown for its sweet tasting leaves. Rebiana, who is also known as Reb-A, is the purified extract responsible for imparting stevia's sweet taste.
Rebiana was developed by Japanese scientists back in 1971. Since then, Reb-A has been used as a sugar substitute throughout Asia and Brazil. Reb-A recently received its 'safe food' status in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the US, Reb-A (but not stevia) was added to the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list in December 2008. Food watchdogs, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) say we can't be sure Reb-A is completely safe, but independent toxicologists reporting to the FDA deny that Reb-A is mutagenic in mice.
Cargill, the Canadian industrial giant, partnered with Coca-Cola to trademark Truvia™. Truvia is the consumer brand for rebiana sweetener in the United States. PepsiCo and Whole Earth Sweetener Company also have a version called PureVia™. Coke and Pepsi have been building stevia processing plants on plantations in China for years.
Truvia™ and PureVia™ packets are not just rebiana. Erythritol is mixed with Reb-A sweetener to tone down its licorice aftertaste. Erythritol, a natural extract made from fermented fruit, is a sugar alcohol that is listed as zero-calories on the label because the carbohydrates are minuscule in a serving packet. But as with all sugar alcohols, large amounts may lead to digestive problems. Rebiana is safe for use by diabetics.
Several products made with Reb-A are already on the grocer's shelves in the US. Coke has two different 100-calorie Odwalla juice drinks and 50-calorie Sprite Green, and Pepsi sells SoBe Lifewater and Trop 50, a 50-calorie juice drink with a dash of sweetness under its Tropicana brand.
Because rebiana products are allowed to use the “natural” label, expect Reb-A products to always be true and pure. (Yeah, right.)
Have you tried a Reb-A product? What did you think?