Body Ecology’s Insights on Coca-Cola’s Announcement that It Will Use Stevia: A Must-Read Q&A with Body Ecology Founder Donna Gates
When and how did you first learn about Stevia?
Years ago when I first began to conquer candidiasis it became very clear to me that the diet had to be totally sugar free. I could personally handle eliminating sugar from my own diet, but I knew most people would have trouble giving it up. Besides, there are six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) and it is healthy to include all six tastes in your meal. So I knew for Body Ecology Diet to work for everyone we had to find something sweet tasting, but not a sugar that would make the blood acidic and feed yeast. I also knew the ideal sweetener would have to have a long history of safety… unlike the artificial sweeteners that had become so popular like Equal and NutriSweet made from aspartame.
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My first experience with stevia was with the Sunrider mixture of stevia and chrysanthemum flowers. It was a very dark liquid that had a bitter aftertaste. I kept searching and was introduced to the white powdered extract by my two Chinese friends in Washington, DC, who oversaw the products imported from China to the US.
I had heard the Japanese used stevia and had for years but had joint ventured with the Chinese to grow it for them. My Chinese friends secured a source of delicious extract of stevia and rebaudiana for my use. The week after it arrived in the US the FDA put a ban on it entering the US. There was a ban to import it but not to sell it. Since I had just self published the Body Ecology Diet one week earlier, I was in a quandary about what to do at first. I was nursing a baby and definitely didn’t want to go to jail. But my intuition told me to go ahead and start teaching the world about it. We really needed this product if we were ever going to be a healthier world. Our children needed it most of all because they are seriously addicted to sugar here in the US.
I could really relate to Johnny Appleseed turning people onto apples. I created recipes and handed them out to everyone with a sample of the fine white powder. I contacted Robert Atkins, MD, who authored The Atkins Diet, because I felt he’d be open to stevia since he had been outspoken against artificial sweeteners. He liked the taste and safety record of stevia, and published an article in his popular newsletter recommending its use.
Over 75,000 people suddenly learned about it from Dr Atkins, and I was inundated with calls. The money I made that month selling the fluffy white powder funded the beginning of Body Ecology, the company.
Today the Body Ecology System of Health and Healing has helped tens of thousands of people become well. So I am very grateful to this little sweet-tasting herb for helping us begin our work.
What is your reaction to Coca-Cola and Cargill finally agreeing to market a sweetener that is essentially Stevia?
A little part of me was a little angry and a bit jealous that Coke is making it seem like they suddenly discovered this new sweetener.
They have given it a new name, of course and will now make a lot of money on their new products. After a few seconds of processing my anger and jealously I realized it was a pretty exciting victory for me, although it has been a long time coming. Mimicry is the highest form of flattery.
Naturally I would have loved to be the one Coke purchased the stevia from many years ago. Imagine how much good one could do in the world if you had a constant stream of income like that.
But there is no doubt it is going to be wonderful for the millions of people around the world who will drink Diet Coke. Hopefully this will ensure the eventual death of aspartame.
I’m excited for our teens and children especially. Maybe this truly is the beginning of ending obesity and diabetes. Its encouraging to know that my years of hard work introducing stevia to the US market has a happy ending that now will spread to the entire world. In fact, most of the other countries follow the guidelines of the FDA. Now countries who do not approve stevia will as well. This will have a global impact really. If I had not taught tens of thousand of people about stevia, if I had not found a truly delicious source for it, if I had not written a recipe book showing ways to cook with stevia, it would not have the 15 year track record of popularity and safety it now enjoys here in the US. Coco Cola would never be taking this important step.
But don’t forget, the role US consumers played in our success. We consumers “vote with our pocketbooks.” Clearly the people who have purchased it and have been happily using stevia all these years deserve to celebrate their victory as well.
As a matter of fact, during those initial two and a half years when I promoted and sold Body Ecology Stevia here in the US, I also encouraged everyone I spoke to or who read the Body Ecology Diet book to write or call the FDA asking for approval of stevia here in the US.
Clearly enjoying tremendous acceptance by tens of thousands of users who were driving the FDA crazy with hundreds of daily phone calls, the Sunrider Corporation successfully filed a formal, legal petition to lift the ban and the FDA caved in. Unfortunately they would only approve it as a dietary supplement. This prevented it from being used in many products in our natural food industry and there was a great deal of disappointment.
But other companies immediately began distributing their stevia into health food stores, calling them dietary supplements not sweeteners. Other recipe books appeared using stevia in the recipes and this was a great help. Today stevia has become a multimillion dollar product but it still only has approval as a dietary supplement. The Coca Cola Company has petitioned the FDA to approve it as a sweetener and naturally they will succeed. This will open the market for everyone who wants to add it to their yogurts, beverages, desserts, etc. It’s exciting really.
Unlike other brands of stevia, Body Ecology Stevia uses a high quality white powder with a higher concentration of the rebaudiana extract that comes from the fresh green leaf.
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Although you were “trumpeting” it long before most people even knew what it was, Body Ecology’s brand of stevia is one of Body Ecology’s most successful products ever. Why did you decide to introduce your own brand of Stevia? What makes it different from others out there?
Because of the inconvenience of working with a white powder at home, we created the first Stevia Liquid Concentrate and I also decided to use grapefruit-seed extract to safely preserve it.
We’re told constantly that our stevia liquid concentrate is the best tasting one on the market. We use a high quality white powder… with a higher concentration of the rebaudiana extract that comes from the fresh green leaf.
The rebaudiana tastes better than the stevia extract but there is only a tiny portion of rebaudiana in the leaf, so a product high in rebaudiana extract vs. stevia extract is more expensive to produce.
We also have three special filtering processes to remove the licorice-like aftertaste. I doubt Cargill will chose the same quality. They will have had to secure a significant source of stevia plant to supply Coke with all they will need to manufacture what will now most likely become their most successful soft drink ever. It will certainly be their healthiest if they sweeten it only with stevia and do not combine it with an artificial sweetener.
I have not seen the new list of ingredients, but perhaps I wouldn’t be surprised if they do this. Stevia also enhances and improves the taste of other sweeteners it is combined with. Stevia should be delicious with the Coke flavor. It’s really great also with fruit and dairy so I can only imagine how many companies will now be adding it to their products. But for home use, the Body Ecology Stevia is both convenient and delicious.