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Last week, the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval to a new sweetener called rebiana, which is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, a shrub native to Paraguay. Major soft-drink companies are hoping the natural, zero-calorie sweetener will reverse their recent decline in sales. Well, reverse the decline, I should say, once the companies figure out how to make the sugar substitute work for cola drinks.

According to the Wall Street Journal, rebiana (which is marketed under the brand names Truvia and PureVia, depending on the soft drink company) works better with citrus-flavored products, which likely explains why Coke and Pepsi are limiting their new stevia-sweetened products to fruitier drinks like Sprite and an orange-juice drink called Trop50. Writes the Journal:

But the soft-drink makers face considerable challenges. Not every beverage tastes good with it: Citrus-flavored products work well, but scientists are still trying to find a way to create the iconic cola taste. The new sweetener is also about three times more expensive than commonly used artificial sweeteners, partly because of its small scale.

Before you jump on the Truvia bandwagon yourself, you might consider these three things:

  1. That studies from the 1980s found that the sweetener could lead to liver or fertility problems
  2. That the FDA has a history of approving non-sugar sweeteners despite studies that show health risks
  3. That no one seems to trust the FDA anymore, even Reader’s Digest.

Enjoy those sodas, y’all.

Photo by Flickr user tengis