The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just granted approval to the natural herbal sweetener stevia. You may know that I endorse stevia as a sweetener I use because it is plant-based without altered (synthetic) molecules, it has no impact on blood sugar, and no adverse health effects have been reported from its use. In short, it’s a dramatic improvement over chemicals like Splenda, saccharin, and the widely used aspartame (brand name NutraSweet).
Aspartame is a public health nightmare. More complaints have come in to the FDA from its use the past two decades than all other food additives combined (and we have over 4,000 approved food chemicals). The frightening array of complaints include migraines and other neurological phenomena.
This doesn’t mean, incidentally, that your FDA is a friendlier organization somehow changed to truly protect your health. Far from it. The very same organization is well documented to have blocked stevia from store shelves just years ago. You couldn’t sell it as a food in health food stores (it had to be labeled so as to not make consumers think they could eat it). A company was banned from using it as an ingredient in its recipe book. Companies attempting to use it were threatened with fines. And stevia imports were seized and destroyed.
But due to public pressure following years of complaints about aspartame, Pepsi and Coca-Cola petitioned the FDA for stevia approval to replace aspartame in its products. So the FDA has yielded once again to big business, not somehow become committed to science, the public health interest, and safety.
The patented product they’ll be using is called Truvia, and from what I can learn, it does not contain any altered, synthetic ingredients. (I’ll let you know if I find out otherwise.) While this is good news, of course, two things I want you to think about:
- The FDA is still bowing to corporate interests and its activities shouldn’t be the rubber stamp you use to guide your purchasing decisions.
- Even when Diet Coke has stevia in it, it’s still really bad for you, so please don’t think it’s a health food.
Tomorrow, important information about another sweetener I endorse, agave nectar.