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No-Calorie Natural Sweetener on the Way

Truvia, Made From Stevia, Expected to Debut This Year; Other Stevia Products Step Up
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When Will Truvia Debut?

"Is it a go? Yes, it's a go," Cargill spokeswoman Ann Tucker says of Truvia. But she can't say exactly when Truvia will be available.

"That's the gazillion-dollar question," says Tucker, adding that Truvia will get a "rigorous review" by the scientific community before it hits the market.

The FDA says it will review Truvia's case to be considered "generally recognized as safe," which would pave the way for it to become the first stevia product allowed as a food additive in the U.S.

Perspective of a Watchdog Group

"No company was able to demonstrate its safety to FDA," David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), tells WebMD. "Now maybe Cargill has done that. Maybe."

The CSPI hasn't been sweet on stevia because of possible safety issues.

"For good reason, FDA and a lot of other industrialized countries have not allowed it to be used as a food additive until these safety questions have been resolved. That's what Cargill thinks they've done ... at least with the extract that they're selling," says Schardt.

"We've always told consumers you're not going to drop dead if you use it [stevia] to sweeten your tea," says Schardt. "But there is concern about using it as a food additive, putting it into a lot of products that are sold to millions of people."

The CSPI's verdict on Truvia isn't in yet. But Schardt is cautiously optimistic. "We hope that the stevia extract does prove to be safe."

Sweetness in Moderation

Nutritionist Elaine Magee, MPH, RD -- WebMD's "Recipe Doctor" and the author of Food Synergy -- has blogged about her "wait and see" view of stevia.

"No matter what the alternative sweetener, including stevia, I would recommend moderation," Magee writes in an email. "I think that it tricks our body to taste sweetness and to not get the carbohydrates absorbed in the bloodstream that the body then expects. For some people I suspect this can bring on cravings or overeating later, perhaps."

That probably doesn't happen with "smaller amounts (like one diet soda a day)," writes Magee. "But there are people who have many diet sodas a day. This then also displaces more healthful beverages like green tea, water, or nonfat or low-fat milk."

That theory hasn't been proven. But it has come up in past research on diet sodas and weight gain. That research wasn't related to stevia.

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