Americans are addicted to sugar. There’s no beating around the bush with this statement, because it’s so obvious in everything we embody as a nation. Endocrinologist Dr. Glenn Braunstein explained that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day in the form of drinks, foods, and added sweeteners. Thus, a new craze was spurred in the foods industry, leading to new lines of products that companies tried to convince the public to buy under the premise that they were “healthier” or “calorie-free.”
However, when artificial sweeteners such as sucrose (Splenda), and fructose (Equal) began to leak out evidence that they were possible carcinogens and that they could promote weight gain instead of prevent it, the market opened for a new angle: natural sweeteners.
As a response, Stevia in the Raw—a sweetener derived from the stevia plant, which is naturally close to calorie free—was developed.
What is Natural?
Technically, all of today’s sugars can be classified as natural, since they are all formed from “natural” plants such as beets, corn, and herbs. Sugar naturally found in whole foods is packed alongside fiber, vitamins, and healthy minerals. When they are processed, however, they are stripped of the qualities that make them wholesome, creating an entirely false image of a “natural food.”
Stevia may be derived from a wholesome source, but after the chemical processing that it undoubtedly underwent to transform it into the nutrition-less carbohydrate that is sold in stores across the world. The FDA even remarked that brands such as PureVia and Truvia are “not stevia but a highly purified product.” Because the FDA doesn’t regulate the use of the word “natural,” not even that context can be taken for granted. Nevertheless, consumers continue to rally for the sweeteners because of their lower calorie count, natural sweetness, and perceived health value.
After all of this hype, who was to blame the geniuses behind the late success of Splenda for not wanting to catch on? The makers of one of them most successful artificial sweeteners began to market a new and improved version of their old zero-calorie sweetener — Nectresse, an all-natural sugar made from the mountainous monk fruit.
History of Nectresse
This fruit had been used since antiquity by natives, yet its sweet qualities had never quite caught on to the rest of the world. The earliest report of its usage by the western world was in an unpublished article written in 1938 by Professor G. W. Groff and Hoh Hin Cheung. They described the Asian fruit’s uses, including its “cooling” properties in reducing fever and inflammation. Nevertheless, at the time, the monk fruit’s distinctive odor was enough to offset it from becoming a profitable venture, and the prospect of selling it to the western world almost ended there. However, in 1995 Proctor & Gamble patented a process to remove the offensive odors and obtain the concentrated sweetness of the fruit.
The Secret Behind Nectresse
Eventually, McNeill Nutritionals, LLC, the makers of Splenda, released Nectresse. Their product was a moderate success, generating a fair amount of attention among health-food consumers. Its natural sweetness and 100% natural guarantee assured purchasers that they were buying quality ingredients. The truth is, however, that this is far from the truth.
Although it is a general fact that even “zero calorie” sweeteners contain minimal calories, what may not be widely known is that Nectresse is not entirely natural, as their website states. The first ingredient is erythritol, a sugar alcohol, with sugar coming in at a close second. In fourth, after monk fruit itself, is molasses. The three non-fruit ingredients are typically created using GM crops such as corn for the erythritol and beets for the refined sugar.The use of such refined and processed ingredients likely stems from the need to produce a cheaper product with more substance, but even while monk fruit may be a main ingredient, the other ingredients force it to shed its false promise of being “all-natural.”
Truthfully, Nectresse is about 150x sweeter than sugar because of natural antioxidants called mogrosides that are perceived as sweet, but do not count towards calories as much as sugar. However, the likelihood that indigestible chemicals present in Nectresse will interfere with your body's natural metabolism runs a high risk. It is possible that, contrary to the mantra of the company, Nectresse and other highly refined, artificial products may induce weight gain, due to the mentality that less calories equates greater indulgence.
The bottom line is, moderation is key to any healthy diet. Although companies may try to sway consumers to buy their product, sneaky advertisement can make greater than life seem like a great deal.