Sweetener could double as insecticide
What started as a ninth grader’s science project has the potential to turn into a very good thing for the environment. While doing the school project--designed to test the the effects of artificial sweeteners on fruit flies--a father-son team from Philadelphia found that flies raised on the sweetener Truvia had a much shorter life span compared to other flies. To investigate further, the father, a scientist at Drexel, moved the project from his home to a lab. And there he found that erythritol, the main ingredient in Truvia, could successfully be used to bait flies and act as an effective insecticide.
After finding that the flies consumed more than twice as much erythritol as sucrose when given the choice between the two, the researchers wanted to see how much erythritol would be needed to kill the flies. The findings showed that flies given food with low levels of erythritol (about 0.1 grams in 10 milliliters of water) displayed no difference in life span than flies raised on food without any erythritol. However, flies given food with high levels of erythritol (2.4 grams in 10 milliliters of water) were dead within two days.
While the researchers don't know exactly how erythritol killed the flies, other studies have shown that it can inhibit an insect's ability to absorb nutrients and water and their ability to move around. More studies are needed to determine its effects on other insects.