Splenda soon to unleash ‘Nectresse’ – Here’s what you need to know about this new ‘natural’ sweetener
McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, maker of the artificial sweetener Splenda, is gearing up to introduce a new “natural” sweetener known as Nectresse that will cater specifically to those looking for a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar. But is Nectresse really as natural as McNeil claims it is, or is the product just another example of tricky marketing hype aimed at health-conscious consumers?
According to the Nectresse website, the product is “100 percent natural,” and is made from the heat-stable extract of an Asian melon known as monk fruit, or Lo Han. McNeil claims that Nectresse contains zero calories per serving, and that monk fruit is 150 times sweeter than sugar, which means that consumers do not need to use very much of it to effectively sweeten foods and beverages.
Nectresse contains other additives besides monk fruit
But monk fruit is not the only ingredient in Nectresse, nor is it even the primary ingredient. The first and most abundant ingredient in Nectresse is actually erythritol, a sugar alcohol commonly derived from corn, the vast majority of which has been genetically modified (GM) in the U.S. And the second ingredient in Nectresse is sugar, which is refined and more than likely comes from GM sugar beets.
The third ingredient in Nectresse is monk fruit, which McNeil explains is extracted using a natural process involving both water and heat rather than chemicals — this is good. But the fourth and final ingredient in Nectresse is molasses, which once again is a sugar that more than likely was derived from GM sugar beets — producers that use sugar from sugar cane, after all, typically indicate this on their ingredient labels.
Nectresse, not so natural after all
So three out of the four ingredients used in Nectresse appear to be derived from bioengineered crops, and two of these ingredients are refined sugars. And since erythritol is a sugar alcohol, as well as the most abundant ingredient in Nectresse, McNeil can legally claim under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines that Nectresse contains zero calories per serving.
But the fact that Nectresse more than likely contains ingredients derived from GM sources means that it is hardly the “natural” product that McNeil is hyping it up to be. Sure, Nectresse contains a little bit of monk fruit which, like the stevia plant, contains compounds that are naturally very sweet, but that do not provide the body with calories in the same way as sugar. But the other ingredients found in Nectresse can hardly be considered natural.
According to MonkFruit.org, (http://www.monkfruit.org/monk-fruit/68/food-beverage-manufacturers) monk fruit can actually be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar because it contains natural antioxidants known as mogrosides that have a strong, sweet taste, but that are not actually considered to be sugar. These mogrosides are unique to monk fruit, and they also contain zero calories.
By itself, in other words, monk fruit appears to be viable as a healthy, alternative sweetener that, because of its heat stability, can work better than stevia in certain food applications that require baking, sauteing, or other forms of heat cooking. Nectresse, on the other hand, appears to be an adulterated version of the monk fruit that represents the corporate food industry’s latest attempt at trying to cash in on the health-conscious.
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