Thursday, July 10, 2008

Review: Truvia - Nature's Calorie-Free Sweetener



July 9th, 2008 marked the first day that the long awaited sweetener Truvia could be sampled. Cargill, the makers of Truvia, is having a 3 day exhibit in New York City to showcase their newest offering. I was honored to be invited to this special occasion where you could not only learn more about Truvia, but could taste it for yourself. They also have a greenhouse set up where you could learn all about the process that turns Stevia plants into Truvia. Alas, due to those two little annoyances called time and money, I was unable to travel to NYC for the big unveiling. But the nice people at Cargill saw to it that I had all the info from the briefing, as well as some products to sample, so I could share my thoughts about Truvia with you, my readers.

So what do I think?

It's good. Really good. I-could-eat-it-straight-out-of-the-package good. Not something I can say for other sugar substitutes. The texture is perfect, the taste is amazing. No licorice after taste or cooling effect like you sometimes experience with Stevia.



They sent me a box of 40 packets, which is currently available for sale on www.truvia.com for $3.99. You can also find it in select D'Agostino supermarkets in NYC. In the next few months they expect to have it available nationwide at grocery and retail, restaurants and other food establishments.



They also sent me a dark chocolate bar made with Truvia so I could see how it well in works in products. I have to say, everyone in my family really liked it. And that's saying a lot since my daughter hates dark chocolate.

So, you ask, are there any downsides to this new sweetener?

Possibly.

Look closely at the carb count on the package:




Three carbs. All from Erythritol. I was under the impression that the ingredient Rebiana, which comes from the Stevia plant, would be a stand alone ingredient. But for some reason they have added Erythritol, which many of you know is a sugar alcohol. The mildest of them all, but a sugar alcohol none-the-less. If you count SA's in your carb count, then this new sweetener isn't such a bargin. If you find Erythritol messes with your tummy like other SA's then you won't want to use this much either. Same goes for those who avoid SA's due to the rise in blood glucose they can cause.

Approximately 1 hour after eating the candy bar, which I probably had 3/4 of, I had the familiar tummy rumblings. Not a good sign. Not as bad as if I'd ate something with Maltitiol, but rumblings all the same. I tested my blood glucose after about 2 hours and did not see a rise, but then we believe I'm hypoglycemic so I'm not sure I would have seen such a result anyway.

ADDED: Dicussing this with Jimmy Moore, he pointed out that the 2nd ingredient is isomalt, which I missed noticing for some reason. That could easily explain the tummy issues. Erythritol has never had such a sudden effect on me, so now the rumbling down under makes more sense. :) BUT, adding isomalt to the candy kind of ruins the whole purpose of trying it.

So in this regard, I'm disappointed.

I wrote Cargill to ask them about this. I read in the material they gave me that it is used as a bulking agent. I did not know this and don't think I ever remember seeing it listed as such on any other product I've tried. (After some research I see that it is in fact used as such often.) As soon as I hear from them, I'll update it here.

The other question you may have is about the safety of this new sweetener. You can find all the details about this in my last blog post about Truvia, where I highlighted the research behind Rebiana.

Update: As I mentioned before, I wrote to Cargill to ask them about the erythritol in Truvia. I just received a response and wanted to share that information with you.

After asking about the reason for using erythritol and how it effects blood glucose levels, the reply is as follows:

Erythritol is a natural, non-caloric alternative to sugar. It has been part of the human diet for thousands of years as it is present in fruits such as pears, melons and grapes, as well as foods such as mushrooms and fermentation-derived foods such as wine soy sauce and cheese. Since 1990, erythritol has been commercially produced and added to foods and beverages to provide sweetness, as well as enhance taste and texture. It is used as a bulking ingredient in the tabletop formula. It is what gives Truvia its crystal form and is not a fermental/sugar alcohol product.

Regarding consumption, before Truvia natural sweetener was made available to consumers, Cargill commissioned a rigorous set of scientific studies that established the safety of rebiana. The results confirmed the positive findings of earlier studies and addressed unresolved questions. The results have been published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal. A panel of independent experts reviewed a dossier of all available toxicity and safety information relevant to rebiana, and concluded that rebiana is safe for use as a general purpose sweetener. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) supports rebiana use as a general purpose sweetener in food and beverages.



OK. It sorta answered my questions. Enough so that I'm satisfied with the answer. I know that in the research they found no significant raise in blood glucose levels with Truvia. I can only assume that means they tested it as Truvia, with the erythritol added, and not just rebiana.

Again, they reiterate the fact that erythritol was used as a bulking agent. And that it is not a fermental/sugar alcohol product. After doing some reading on this sugar alcohol that's not a sugar alcohol, I can see why they chose it. From About.com:

Erythritol has not been found to affect blood sugar or insulin levels and has a zero glycemic index.


In reasonable amounts, erythritol doesn’t cause digestive upset and diarrhea that other sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol are known to cause. This is because erythritol is a smaller molecule and 90 percent of erythritol is absorbed in the small intestine and for the most part excreted unchanged in urine. This quality makes erythritol unique among the sugar alcohols.


So what amount of erythritol would you have to consume to experience gastric issues? Looks like it's around 80 grams. Looking at that in terms of Truvia, that'd be about 27 packets. Hopefully no one is using that much sweetener in a day anyway. If you'd like to learn more about Erythritol, be sure to check out the following articles:

What Is Erythritol? (about.com)

What is Erythritol?

Erythritol - What Is It and Where To Get It


So. My final decision? I like it. After learning that there should be no gastric distress or blood sugar issues with Truvia, I'll be happy to use it. I think it will be a great addition to a low-carb lifestyle, as always, if used with common sense. Look for it to start making it's way to retailers and into food products in the near future... just be sure to keep an eye out for isomolt and it's siblings. They can hit you when you least expect it! *wink*

6 comments:

Jennifer said...

Interesting post, Amy. You were also very candid in your review. I use erythritol in combination with Splenda Granular when needing extra sweetening power. Erythritol has never been a problem for me. I'm not familiar with Stevia and I still wonder about its safety a bit. I sometimes wonder why the FDA took so long to approve it for cooking and baking purposes?

It is great that we are getting more options available to us. My recipes are flexible for the most part in that people can substitute Splenda Granular with their sweeteners (or combination of sweeteners) of choice. I feel comfortable with Splenda simply because we've consumed probably more than any other family on this planet and my boys grew up on it. Do I think Splenda is perfectly safe? I don't know. Time will tell, but chances are no one else will consume as much as we already have - and we're fine at the moment. I think the other option - sugar - would definitely have caused problems for us in the same quantities.

Kent said...

I like the review, Amy. I have 2 major questions in regards to Truvia. 1.) Are they going to release a non-bulked liquid version like Sweetzfree for Splenda? 2.) How is it in cooking? I have heard it was heat-resistant unlike Aspartame, but performance in cooking recipes isn't always that simple. I hope they choose to invest to help someone create a cookbook similar to Jennifer's because a one to one conversion doesn't always give similar results.

Jennifer or Linda would be excellent spokesperson for a new sweetener's application in cooking.

Jennifer said...

Hi Kent,

That was sweet of you to say those things. A real vote of confidence! :-) I remember you well from the days when I visited the Atkins Diet Bulletin board. You are practically the only person I remember from those days, except for a couple of ladies.

I vote for Linda to do the job. :-) I'm just having fun with my blog these days and visiting other blogs. I am writing a few recipes for a diabetes magazine but other than that...nothing too serious.

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Amy Dungan (aka Sparky's Girl) said...

Hi Diabetes Supply. I'm not 100% sure what your comment had to do with this topic, but I allowed it through on good faith that you aren't just trying to advertise your blog in my comments section. But ALL the other comments with the EXACT SAME WORDING were rejected.

Thanks for reading!

Amy Dungan (aka Sparky's Girl) said...

Kent,

I talked with the folks from Truvia and they said that while they aren't ruling out the possibilities of other forms of Truvia, they don't currently have a liquid version in the works.
I'm hoping they'll come out with a liquid version too...

Also, I've sent Jennifer the contact info so she can request some Truvia to test in her recipes. :)