What Is Rebiana? Is It Safe as a Sweetener?

How Rebiana Is Processed and Used in Food Products

Stevia sweetener in powder form
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Rebiana is the name of a sweetener made from a plant called stevia. It is not sold on its own, but is a major component of a zero-calorie sweetener called Truvia, which is available in grocery stores. Rebiana is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant using a highly refined process which purifies a chemical called steviol glycoside rebaudioside A (Reb-A).

What Is the Difference Between Stevia, Truvia, and Rebiana?

Stevia, also called Stevia rebaudiana or sweet leaf of Paraguay, is a plant.

Its leaves have been used as a sweetener for centuries, mainly in South America and China. Not only is Stevia used in foods, but it's also in toothpaste and other products. 

Stevia leaves are the raw material used to distill the chemical referred to as Reb-A. This super sweet chemical can then be used in a variety of products. Reb-A sweeteners include Truvia, Stevia in the Raw OnlySweet, PureVia, Born Sweet Zing. Truvia is the brand of Reb-A sweetener used in products made by Coca-Cola, Sobe Lifewater, and Odwalla juice products. 

FDA Approval for Rebiana

In December of 2009, the FDA issued a letter stating that Rebiana and other products made from a specific part of the stevia plant and meeting purity standards of 97% or higher would be "non-objectionable" as food additives. This was a semi-reversal of the FDA's previous stance on stevia products. Until 2009, stevia products were banned as food additives in the U.S. because of research that indicated a possible cancer risk.

Cargill, the agricultural giant, was able to demonstrate to the FDA that Reb-A containing products were safe and the FDA agreed.

How Is Rebiana Used?

Rebiana, also referred to as high-purity rebaudioside A, is anywhere from 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. It has a clean, sweet taste without an aftertaste.

It is used in various beverages and foods as well as in smoothies or alongside other carbohydrate sweeteners. It is stable under dry conditions and has much better stability than aspartame or neotame in aqueous food systems. Research also reveals that Rebiana is sweeter when cold.

Is Rebiana Safe and Natural?

The FDA has approved Reb-A products, but that doesn't mean that they are risk-free. That said, however, small quantities are unlikely to be harmful, and may help in diets designed to lower weight or cholesterol. It's important, however, to avoid consuming large quantities of Reb-A-based sweetener, as it can cause some mild side effects and has the potential to cause more serious long-term issues.

While Reb-A itself is unlikely to cause problems, Truvia is only .5% Reb-A. The rest of the product is made of erythritol, a natural sugar alcohol. Erythritol is added to the Reb-A sweetener to eliminate the potency of the licorice aftertaste.  Large amounts of sugar alcohol are known to cause digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 

Reb-A based products are, technically, natural. In other words, they are created from products that occur in nature, including Stevia and corn.

On the other hand, they are highly processed products. Thus, Reb-A based products are about as natural as table sugar.

Sources:

Ulbricht, C. et al.An evidence-based systematic review of stevia by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Cardiovasc Hematol Agents Med Chem. 2010 Apr;8(2):113-27.

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