A new study published on PLOS One reveals that the well-known artificial sweetener, Truvia, is toxic to fruit flies. Biologist Daniel Marenda, part of a research team at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., noted: “Indeed what we found is that the main component of Truvia, the sugar erythritol, appears to have pretty potent insecticidal activity in our flies.”
Surprisingly, erythritol, the main ingredient of Truvia, as well as a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in small amounts in numerous fruits, was tested on human beings in high dosages and was considered “safe to consume” years ago. Since 2001 the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has deemed it to be “a safe food additive.” Additionally, several other countries have also approved its use as a food additive.
The investigative scientists made this discovery while studying the effects of erythritol on the longevity of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). They learned that it was deadly when consumed by the fruit flies in comparison to like mixtures of “nutritive sugar controls” such as sucrose, syrup and other types of artificial sweeteners. Fruit flies that ingested erythritol had a life span of approximately six days as opposed to the usual 45 to 60 day life expectancy. Oddly, when given a choice, the insects were reported to prefer erythritol to sugar.
The DU group also learned that the “toxic effect did not stem from stevia plant extract, which is an ingredient in Truvia as well as the “non-nutritive sweetener” PureVia. Their study revealed that PureVia had “no toxic effect” on the fruit flies.
Senior author Sean O’Donnell stated: “We are not going to see the planet sprayed with erythritol and the chances for widespread crop application are slim. But on a small scale, in places where insects will come to a bait, consume it and die, this could be huge.”
The research team has applied for a patent on “erythritol as an insecticide” and is conducting further experiments on its effectiveness. “Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that erythritol may be used as a novel, environmentally sustainable and human safe approach for insect pest control,” they concluded.