Most Americans would like to add a little more sweetness to their life, but don’t want the calories and other negative health effects associated with sugar. Although there are a variety of low calorie artificial sweeteners on the market, some people worry about the health effects of synthetic sugar substitutes and are looking for a safe, natural alternative. One of the most interesting of the natural sweetener alternatives to enter the market is stevia. This sweetener made from the stevia plant has been used for years in Japan and Brazil without ill effects. Because some of the early stevia studies performed in the U.S. showed questionable genotoxicity in rats, the FDA initially delayed bringing this sweetener to market, until recently, when it received approval with a designation of “generally recognized as safe”. Although some people are still concerned about stevia effects due to these equivocal studies, this natural sweetener appears to be in the clear according to a recently published research study.
Stevia Effects: A New Study
This latest study on stevia effects was published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. It showed that Rebaudioside A, derived from the stevia leaf, was non-toxic and showed no evidence of genotoxicity at doses of 750 mg. per kg. of body weight in mice and 2000 mg. per kg. of body weight in rats. The researchers emphasize these results are consistent with previous stevia studies and that stevia is safe and non-genotoxic. The conclusions reached from this study on stevia effects should be welcome news to those eager for a safe, natural sugar alternative.
Stevia Effects: Are There Benefits?
Some stevia studies have shown that this natural sweetener may have additional health benefits. In rats, it appears to increase insulin sensitivity. If this holds true in human, it could be beneficial for those with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Some stevia studies have also shown that it helps to lower blood pressure and could be useful for those with hypertension.
Where Do You Find It?
Stevia has previously only been available in health food stores and natural food markets, but will likely have wider distribution now that it’s received FDA clearance. Coke and Pepsi have both developed drinks sweetened with stevia and other companies are likely to follow. Expect to see stevia in products such as yogurt and chewing gum in the foreseeable future. Because stevia has a slightly bitter aftertaste, it’s sometimes mixed with the sugar alcohol erythritol to improve the taste.
Now that stevia studies have cleared it from a health standpoint, will it take over the sweetener market? Only time will tell.