Stevia Sweetner – Good or Bad?
There has been a lot of negative information being passed around about artificial sweetners and sugar substitutes over the past several years. Today there different sugar substitutes in the market but how do you know which one is not harmful to your health?
Stevia extract sweetner is the topic of this feature where we look to see where it comes from and if it is a healthy alternative to sugars that we can incorporate into our diet today.
What is Stevia Sweetner?
Stevia sweetner is actually an extract from a Stevia plant which is a shrub found in South America and is part of the sunflower family. It has a slight licorice after taste This extract has been removed from these plants and used as a sugar substitute because our bodies cannot digest the carbohydrate, and therefore it has no effects on our insulin levels.
In other words it is a zero calorie natural sweetner, but the question is why was it banned by the FDA and European Union?
Why did the FDA Ban Stevia?
This is pretty interesting, because my research shows that Stevia extract as a sweetner has been used for over 50 years but some early research in the 80’s indicated that it may be toxic to humans. The problem with the research was that it was severely flawed and was even dismissed by the scientific community.
Unfortunately, the results of the study were taken out of context and lead to the ban by the FDA and European Union. Years later and hundreds of scientific double-blind studies later have proven Stevia extract to be safe and non-toxic to mammals even at very high concentrations.
It appears that the other artificial sweetner companies also had a part in placing pressure on the FDA to ban Stevia extract and this is an alarm bell for me once again that the FDA is heavily influenced by commercial companies who have one interest in mind – business and making money from their own products.
Is Stevia still banned by the FDA?
Well, it looks like all the research and consensus from the World Health Organization that Stevia extract is in fact completely safe for human consumption pushed the FDA to remove the ban.
In fact, some countries like Japan have been using Stevia as food additives since the 70’s and some recent research even indicates that Stevia can actually have health benefits for reversing diabetes and helping those with metabolic problems.
Does Stevia Have Side Effects
As with any food product some people may have allergies to Stevia and related plants. It looks like some people have also reported some bloating or nausea, but again that doesn’t seem out of the norm for any food product.
I’d like to see some more extensive long term research on a specific Stevia extract that is not patented by any company, but only time will tell whether that will happen or not.
Conclusion on Stevia
Take this for what you will but I for one am a little surprised as to the positive findings of all this research. It’s also interesting to note that once the FDA approved Stevia, both Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola have started creating their own Stevia derived sugar substitutes and will be using it in a number of low calorie drinks in the near future.
I invite you to do your own un-biased research on Stevia extract and consult with your family doctor to see if it is right for you.
Here are a couple high quality Stevia products if you’d like to try them:
Have you been using Stevia extract? What is your opinion on Stevia as a sugar substitute?