Stevia is a remarkable plant, many times sweeter than sugar with virtually no calories. In parts of South America, it has been used for hundreds of years to safely sweeten and flavor beverages. In Japan, stevia has been used by millions of people for those purposes for over 25 years.
But in the United States, the stevia issue has not been that simple. If it's unknown to you, perhaps that's because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has maneuvered to keep stevia products off the U.S. market despite efforts by the Lipton Tea Company and the American Herbal Products Association to have the FDA acknowledge stevia to be GRAS (generally recognized as safe).
The stevia tale in the U.S. is one of FDA raids and mysterious trade complaints, searches, seizures, and border blockades. Until 1995, when the passage of the Dietary Supplement, The Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was passed, there was an "import alert" that in effect blocked all stevia from entering the country.
Although not approved in the U.S. as a sweetening agent, stevia can now be sold as a dietary supplement, and even though it's still the same sweet herb, the revised import alert prohibits any mention of sweetness on the label.
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Q) Is Stevia safe?
A) See chapter 6 for a detailed discussion. In general, Stevia is an all-natural herbal product with centuries of safe usage by native Indians in Paraguay. It has been thoroughly tested in dozens of tests around the world and found to be completely non-toxic. It has also been consumed safely in massive quantities (Thousands of tons annually) for the past twenty years. Although one group of studies, perform 1985 through 1987, found one of the metabolizes of steviosides, called Steviol, to be mutagenic towards a particular strain of Salmonella bacteria, there is serious doubt as to whether this study is applicable to human metabolism of Stevia. In fact, the methodology used to measure the mutagenicity in this test was flawed according to a follow-up piece of research which also seriously questioned the validity of the results. For myself, I intend to use the product with both confidences in nature and respect for the healthy moderation and balance which nature teaches us.
Q) Can Stevia replace sugar in the diet?
A) Yes. Refined sugar is virtually devoid of nutritional benefits and, at best, represents empty calories in the diet. At worst, it has been implicated in numerous degenerative diseases. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar and has none of sugar's unhealthy drawbacks.
Q) How sweet is Stevia?
A) The crude Stevia leaves and herbal powder (green) are reported to be 10-15 times sweeter than table sugar. The refined extracts of Stevia called steviosides (a white powder, 85-95% Steviosides) claim to be 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. My experience is that the herbal powder is very sweet while the refined extract is incredibly sweet and needs to be diluted to be properly used. Both products have a slightly bitter aftertaste, also characteristic of licorice.
Q) Can Stevia replace artificial sweeteners in the diet?
A) Yes! I do not believe that humans should consume anything artificial in their diets. Stevia offers a safe, all-natural, alternative to these "toxic time-bombs." And industrial usage in Japan proves that this substitution is both practical and economical.
Q) How many calories are in Stevia?
A) Virtually none. And the refined Stevia extracts are considered to be non-caloric.
Q) Will Stevia raise my blood sugar levels?
A) Not at all. In fact, according to some research, it may actually lower blood sugar levels. However, this research has yet to be confirmed and contradictory results make any conclusions premature.
Q) Can I use Stevia if I am diabetic?
A) Diabetes is a medical condition which should be monitored and treated by a qualified physician or health care practitioner. However, Stevia can be a part of a healthy diet for anyone with blood sugar problems since it does not raise blood sugar levels. If in doubt, ask your doctor. However, if they do say no, ask them politely for the current research to support their opinion.
Q) Can I combine Stevia with other sweeteners?
A) Most certainly. However, sweeteners, in general, should be used in moderation in a balanced healthy diet. And refined and artificial sweeteners should be avoided altogether.
Q) Will Stevia harm my teeth?
A) Apparently not. Two tests conducted by Purdue University's Dental Science Research Group have concluded that Stevioside is both fluoride compatible and "significantly" inhibits the development of plaque, thus Stevia may actually help to prevent cavities.
Q) Can Stevia be used in cooking and baking?
A) Absolutely! Industrial research in Japan has shown that Stevia and Stevioside extracts are extremely heat stable in a variety of everyday cooking and baking situations.
Q) Does Stevia contain vitamins and minerals?
A) Raw herbal Stevia contains nearly one hundred identified phytonutrients and volatile oils, including trace amounts of Rutin (from the Callus) and B-Sitosterol (from the leaves). However, in the quantities typically consumed, the nutritive benefits will be negligible. The extracts of Stevia, being more refined, will contain far fewer of these phytonutrients and volatile oils.
What others are saying about Stevia:
"Stevia...is not only non-toxic, but it also has several traditional medicinal uses. The Indian tribes of South America have used it as a digestive aid and have also applied it topically for years to help wound healing. Recent clinical studies have shown it can increase glucose tolerance and decrease blood sugar levels. Of the two sweeteners (aspartame and stevia), stevia wins hands down for safety."
- Dr. Whitaker's Newsletter, December 1994
"Stevia has virtually no calories. It dissolves easily in water and mixes well with all other sweeteners...I use it myself..."
- Dr. Robert C. Atkins, MD, author of Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution:
It's almost impossible to imagine that some of the earliest known stevia plants were once heavily guarded by tribes of South American Indians. Impossible, that is until you know the story. Yes, stevia has an interesting history. In light of its secrecy, the Guarani Indians must have, at the very least assumed that the leaves of this odd plant held some significant value.
However, foreshadowing the true measure of that significance would have been impossible at the time. Our story begins in the heart of South America during the mid 1800's - a time when the Guarani natives knew said perennial only as “kaa-he-he”. Their applications were simple, and many remain popular today. It was initially used in their unique medicinal potions, as well as a tea-like drink known as bitter mate´. Many chewed the dried leaves simply to acquire the unique, refreshing taste.
As native use became more common, it didn't take long for surrounding regions to catch on. Paraguay took an immediate shine to kaa-he-he. They were quick to document it, stating that the Guarani were using it in teas, foods and a number of other concoctions. Over 200 years later, these early documents are still preserved in the Paraguayan National Archives in Asuncion, Paraguay. Sadly, neither the Guarani natives nor the Paraguayan historians who documented it would be credited for introducing it to mainstream society. Instead, that honor would go to an Italian botanist by the name of Moises Santiago Bertoni in 1905. After an exhaustive quest to obtain the plant, one was sent to him by a priest from the village of San Pedro. Within just one year, he had completed his research, given it a name ( Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni ) and published his findings. Word spread like wildfire. Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni went from “little known plant” to mainstream sensation almost overnight. Would-be growers determined that dangerous expeditions through primitive regions of South America were no longer necessary. Stevia could be easily cultivated, provided that they could mimic the moist, sweltering climate needed to do so. And they did just that. In 1908, nearly one ton of dried stevia was harvested, thus providing the economic nudge needed to jumpstart the stevia “industry”.
In 1921, American trade Commissioner George Brady presented this information to the USDA, referring to it as a “new plant with great possibilities”. As it turns out, America was not impressed and put research on the backburner. France saw things differently. In 1931 two chemists were successful in extracting the white, crystalline compounds that make stevia so unique. Ultimately, the decision was made to name these compounds steviosides . And while the findings were of great economic and scientific importance, many were left unsure as to what role steviosides could play in the lives of everyday individuals.
In the 1960s while America was engulfed in free love, political unrest, and lunar landings, Japan was dealing with a government-enforced ban on the use of chemicals in food products. Word of these synthetic-free steviosides gave them new hope for some of their most popular foods and beverages. Their research was intense, as was their belief in the potential of what steviosides held for the future. By 1990, Japan accounted for over 40% of worldwide stevia use. Today, it is used on an enormous commercial level, and sales continue to escalate.
Despite its unquestionable safety and moderate US success, stevia was banned by the FDA in 1991. Just three years later, this ban was lifted when Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DHSEA). This made it possible to import Stevia as a dietary supplement. Interestingly, the study used to originally support the temporary ban was later found to be severely flawed. Any way you look at it, Stevia is nothing short of a botanical phenomenon. Its use dates back hundreds of years without any documented adverse reactions.
Decades of extensive research have proven that it's absolutely safe and free of dangerous chemicals. In fact, raw Stevia, in its natural state, contains over 100 phytonutrients.
Aside from being one of the safest natural compounds on the planet, Stevia just makes healthy sense. Even in massive amounts, it remains non-toxic, has next to no calories and doesn't promote tooth decay. With its non-bitter aftertaste, even kitchens from every corner of the globe are beginning to discover what a wonderful supplement stevia can truly be.
Try it today and see why it is the right choice! LifeSource Vitamins - Stevia Extract Powder 1 oz. 622 Servings, Stevia, many times sweeter than sugar with virtually no calories. Pleasant Tasting Herb, Non-Bitter Aftertaste, Vegetarian Product, Safe for Diabetics, Doesn't Affect Blood Sugar Levels.
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*Disclaimer: None of the above statements have been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. As always, consult your physician before taking any and all supplements. LifeSource Vitamins. Individual results may vary.
Disclaimer: All the information contained throughout this website is based upon the opinion of the founder of LifeSource Vitamins, Bruce Brightman, and the entire team at LifeSource Vitamins whose relentless research and studies have been ongoing since 1992. Other articles and information are based on the opinions of the authors, who retain the copyright as marked on the article. The information on this site is not intended to replace your health care professional, but to enhance your relationship with them. Doing your own studying and research and taking your health care into your own hands is always best, especially in partnership with your health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have any medical conditions, always consult your health care professional before taking supplements based on the information on this site.