Artificial sugars aren’t so sweet for fruit flies. The insects live an average of 45 to 60 days, but those raised in tubes containing Truvia (pictured)—one of the best-selling sugar substitutes in the United States—lived for an average of only 5.8 days. Six other sweeteners—four artificial, two natural—had no impact on lifespan, the team reports online today in PLOS ONE. Researchers also found that Truvia-fed flies had difficulty in climbing up a small vial, indicating impaired motor function. The problem, the team discovered, lies in an ingredient present in Truvia but not in the other six sweeteners: erythritol, a commonly used food additive approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is the first evidence that erythritol baits could be used as effective insecticides, at least against fruit flies, say the researchers.
*Correction, 5 June, 10:19 a.m.: The article has been corrected to state that six other sweeteners, both artificial and natural, had no impact on lifespan. An earlier version incorrectly stated that the other six sweeteners were all artificial.