Ninth-grader Simon D. Kaschock-Marenda recently performed an experiment with his father to determine effects of sugars on the longevity of the fruit fly, and discovered that one of the main components of the popular calorie-free natural sweetener Truvia, erythritol, can be used as an insecticide.
Truvia is made from the plant stevia, which produces erythritol as a result of the sweetener-extraction process. Erythritol, as described in the abstract of the experiment, is a non-nutritive sugar alcohol. The young scientist found that the chemical is actually toxic to fruit flies, but the fruit fly still preferred the stevia sweetener to common sugar. It should be noted that the chemical ingredient was approved by the FDA in 2001 as a safe food additive, and most likely is not harmful to humans.
Erythritol is also found in chocolate, melon, grapes, yogurt, and Vitamin Water, amongst other common food products. Truvia responded to these claims and findings with this statement:
"Truvia ingredients, including erythritol, have a long history of safe human consumption as recognized by global food authorities. Humans and animals tolerate foods differently. Some foods that are enjoyed by people cannot be tolerated by animals. We will continue to review this emerging research for further understanding and clarity."
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi