Stevia – A Growing Guilt-Free Indulgence

The Japanese have been using Stevia instead of sugar in their homes, and commercially in food products and soft drinks since 1971. By 1988, almost half of the Japanese sweetener market was Stevia. The Japanese have also pioneered the best maple syrup extraction processes for breaking down the natural steviol glycosides into it’s primary compounds and have dominated the sweetener industry in producing Stevia’s most abundant compound, Stevioside.

In 1982-83, the United States FDA banned Stevia’s importation into America. In 1994, Congress passes the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) which defined dietary supplements as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs and botanical extracts and derivatives. And that of course included Stevia.

In 2008, the FDA approved one of Stevia’s primary compounds, Rebaudioside A, to be sold in the US as a food additive. The extracted compound must be 95-97% pure Rebaudioside A. It is also called Reb-A or Reb A. Rebaudioside A is Stevia’s second most abundant compound. Stevioside is the most abundant primary compound in Stevia and its production is dominated by the Japanese.

Today, trademarked versions of Reb A are sold to commercial food manufactures for use in their products. Rebiana is owned jointly by Cargill International and a retricted trademarked named international soda company. Enlitenâ is registered and sold by Corn Products International who claims that their version is better because it comes from a sweeter “patented version” of the Stevia plant.

Since the the FDA’s decision, Reb A has been included in proprietary formulated sweeteners sold under several trade marked names including: OnlySweet™, Pure Via™, SweetLeafâ Sweetener™, and Truvia™.

Sweetener food manufacturers say bulking agents are included in their products to create a similar texture and feel as sugar. The new Stevia sweeteners are mostly bulking agents sweetened with a little Stevia extract because Stevia extracts are 300-400 times sweeter than cane sugar and weighs very little. It makes sense. Imagine trying to sell a new sweetener, maybe the size of a pack of gum, next to a 5-lb. bag of sugar. The tiny new product would be passed over by most consumers.

The first ingredient listed on any new Stevia sweetener is one of these common bulking agents: cane sugar, erythritol, dextrose, isomaltulose and maltodextrine. When you buy a Stevia supplement you will see one of these common bulking agents: cellulose powder and inulin soluble fiber.

These agents actually do exist naturally in nature somewhere and that’s why food manufacturers are allowed to call their ingredients “natural.” But bulking agents used in sweeteners are not directly harvested from nature. Food manufacturers definitely create these bulking agents in industrial scale facilities.


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