Not that anyone will cry over the loss of some fruit flies but one boy’s science experiment resulted in just that.
After his parents changed their diets to include artificial sweeteners, the boy tested a few to see if they were safe.
What he found was a surprise whose results were replicated in a laboratory experiment and documented: Truvia, the brand name of a stevia-derived sweetener, caused the muscular degeneration and death of fruit flies in the span of six days. The average fruit fly lives 45 to 60 days.
Truvia Vs. Other Sweeteners
Truvia was tested along with corn syrup, Pure Via, Equal, Splenda, and Sweet ‘N Low. Groups of fruit flies were fed the different sweeteners and those that ingested Truvia had trouble moving and eventually died after just six days; the fruit flies in the other groups lived over 58 days.
Researchers narrowed down the difference in Truvia to be a chemical erythritol. Erythritol is a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol that is manufactured for commercial use by fermenting corn.
The researchers at Drexel University plan to expand on this study to develop a feasible insecticide that is not toxic to humans.
The bells go off, the lights flash, the red flag is raised, and questions arise when the subject of any experiment dies—even a fruit fly. There have been studies on the safety of erythritol and none have found cause for real alarm.
Truvia, like any artificial sweetener, is exactly that—it is not a natural product, even if its origin is from a plant. The manufactured product results from a chemical process using genetically modified corn.
Not Necessarily Safe for Children
A European study has established that the substance is safe for human consumption but that the safe levels for children have yet to be set; it is known to cause laxative effects at high enough dosage.
Compared with other artificial sweeteners in the experiment, Truvia is definitely less toxic to humans; Sweet ‘N Low contains saccharin, Equal is aspartame, Splenda is sucralose. Pure Via is another stevia-based sweetener. It does not have erythritol as one of its ingredients and uses non-GMO corn (it is made by PepsiCo whereas Truvia is made by Coca-Cola).
While stevia is a plant that grows in South America and southwest United States, it isn’t for everyone. Plants have their own chemical make-up and interactions. An organic stevia powder may be healthier per se but there are implications for people taking any other medication or supplement and those with low blood pressure. Sweeteners like Truvia and Pure Via adulterate the stevia plant in order to mass produce under controlled conditions.
Fruit flies may be coming up against a new challenge in the days to come. While there is no conclusive evidence that Truvia poses a similar challenge to humans, there are definite known gastrointestinal implications at some level. What that level means to you is your call.