Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coca-Cola and Cargill Announce New All-Natural Sweetner

For those of you who have been hoping for the day Stevia would be available as a sweetener for your favorite foods and beverages, your wait is almost over.

I was honored to be invited to a webinar held by Coca-Cola and Cargill to discuss this latest breakthrough in sweeteners.* The presentation was informative and encouraging, and I'm happy to share with you what I've learned.

Three panelists were in attendance to explain the latest research and development of the first natural, zero calorie sweetener, which they have named Truvia (TM) (pronounced Tru-VEE-a). The experts on this panel were Leslie Curry, who is the Regulatory and Scientific Affairs Director for Cargill Food and Ingredient Systems, Dr. Rhona Applebaum who is Vice President and Chief Scientific and Regulatory Officer for The Coca-Cola Company, and Zanna McFerson who is Business Director for Cargill Health & Nutriton.

First, a short stevia history lesson...

  • Stevia was discovered in 1887 by Moises Santiago Bertoni while studying herbs used by Guarani natives in Paraguay.

  • In 1931 French food chemists isolate the compounds (glycosides) that give stevia it's sweet taste.

  • In 1977 Japanese consumers begin enjoying foods and beverages sweetened with stevia.

  • FDA permits use of stevia in dietary supplements in the U.S. in 1994.

  • In 2005 the Coca-Cola Company and Cargill develop rebiana.

  • In 2006-2008 Cargill works with leading external scientists and consults with the FDA to establish the safety of rebiana.

  • 2008 - Truvia (TM) is introduced.

    So you can see that stevias journey from Paraguay to, very soon, our tables has been a long one.

    You may have noticed that I mentioned something called rebiana earlier. Stevia is a mixture of all components of the stevia leaf - including those that do not have a sweet taste. Rebiana, on the other hand, is a high purity, well-characterized extract from stevia leaves and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Leaves from the stevia plant are harvested and dried, then steeped in fresh water in a process similar to making tea. This unlocks the best-tasting part of the leaf, which they then purify to make a food-grade sweet ingredient.

    Now all these little tid-bits of info are all well and good, but you want answers to the big questions. Is it safe? When can we get it? Will it be in foods and beverages? How does it affect blood sugar? I happy to say Coca-Cola and Cargill have provided answers to these questions.

    In a study, which was published in the Food and Chemical toxicology Journal on May 15th, Cargill enlisted leading external scientists, and consulted with the FDA, to design and conduct a rigrous safety evalulation program for rebiana. The program objectives were as follows:

    - To ensure data on stevioside are relevant to rebaudioside A
    - To Resolve outstanding questions. Example: Possible effects on blood pressure/sugar, reproductive health and kidney function.

    Study details:

  • Intake assessment and methodology: Estimated intake of rebiana for average and high consumers was calculated using extensive databases/studies of actual high-intensity sweetener intakes.

  • Phramacokinetics and metabolism: Designed to determine whether rebiana is metabolized in the same manner as stevioside, which is almost identical in structure.

  • General safety: Study that tested safety of rebiana at very high doses.

  • Multigenerational/reproductive safety: Study assessing reproductive and developmental impact of rebiana at very high doses.

  • Blood pressure: 4-week clinical study in people with normal to low-normal blood pressure.

  • Glucose homeostasis: 16-week clinical study in people with type 2 diabetes.

    The clinical studies have all been placebo controlled, randomized double-blind studies conducted in compliance with good laboratory practices.

  • The results:

    Metabolism studies - Metabolism of rebaudioside A is similar to that of stevioside
    - Extensive toxicology data on stevioside can be applied to rebiana. (the safety or rebiana is supported by a large body or research on purified steviol glycosides.)

    General safety - No negative effects on general health associated with daily consumption of the equivalent of more than 2,000 8-oucse servings of rebiana-sweetened beverage for a 150 lb person.

    Mulitgenerationsl/reproductive safety - Daily consumption equivalent to a 150 lbs person drinking more than 1,000 8 ounce servings of a rebiana-sweetened beverage had no negative effects on general health, reproduction, growth or development of adults or their offspring.

    Chronic Blood pressure study - Daily consumption of 1,000 mg/day or rebiana - the equivalent to consumting 29 tabletop sweetener packets a day or eight 8-ounce servings of rebaiana-sweetened beverage - for four weeks had no significatn blood pressure effects in the healthy subjects with normal or low-normal blood pressure.

    Chronic blood sugar study - Consumption of 1,000 mg/day of rebiana for 16 weeks did not affect blood sugar control and was well-tolerated in people with type 2 diabetes.

    They believe this clearly establishes the safety of rebiana for use as a general purpose sweetener for all consumers.

    At the end of the webinar they had a short Q and A for those attending. Many had the same questions we do. Since the issue of safety has been resolved, lets move on the the next question:

    Do you anticipate FDA approval in foods and beverages? If so, when?
    According to Leslie Curry, they have notified the FDA of the findings. So I guess that means they'll have to wait and see. I do get the feeling they feel assured it will go through, due to the answer to this next question.

    When will the product be available for consumers?

    Zanna McFerson tells us to expect it this year in the U.S. as a table top sweetener, followed by Truvia (TM) in foods and beverages.

    When will Truvia (TM) be available in Coca-Cola beverages and other beverage companies?
    Coca-Cola can only speak for themselves, but cannot discuss the timing due to competitive reasons.

    What are the sweeteners limitations? Can you cook with it?

    It can be used across a wide variety of applicatons. It's PH and heat stable - so it can be baked with. (My note: Whoo Hoo!!!)

    Zanna McFerson made the remark that they have "had great reviews from consumers around the world and expert panels and taste tests."

    To learn more about this innovative new product you can visit the following websites:

    All About Rebiana


    So there you have it! A new choice for those who may be looking for more natural alternatives for sweetening their foods and beverages. Keep an eye out for it. I have the feeling we'll be seeing it very soon, and I can't wait to try it!

    *I was unable to attend due to other obligations, but listened to the entire webinar later.


    Jennifer said...

    Amy, this sweetener does sound promising. Do you think it will still have the bitter aftertaste of Stevia or not? That would have been one of my questions.

    Jennifer said...

    Ah, I found it on the site link you gave for the product. It looks like it will indeed taste good and sweet. This is good news for many people that are afraid of artificial sweeteners. I wonder if one can substitute it for sugar or Splenda Granular cup-for-cup? I will have to read up on it some more. Thanks, Amy, this was so interesting to read.