At the moment, stevia is deemed safe and a healthier alternative to refined sugar. It should be kept in mind, however, that stevia may cause severe allergic reactions to some and there is still debate as to whether or not it is carcinogenic.
Stevia - or better yet Rebaudioside A stevia is a sweetener used as a sugar substitute. It is extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant and has anywhere from 150-200x the sweetness of sugar, but without the calories. Back in 1991, the FDA had banned stevia after research found that it may be linked to cancer. However, in 2008, after research was submitted by leading stevia brands regarding Rebaudioside A stevia, the FDA approved it (albeit without following their normal protocol for approving foods and additives for general human consumption). Stevia's primary benefits are in its relatively high amount of iron and fiber. Iron is key in hemoglobin production, whereas fiber helps prevent constipation and aids in proper digestion. Stevia also contains the essential nutrients potassium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B3.
Another benefit of stevia is that research has shown it to kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. It may also be effective against Candida albicans. When taken in doses just above that of as a sweetener, stevia may help reduce blood pressure.
Despite the benefits, stevia is far from a miracle sweetener. Despite approval from the FDA, there are two factors to consider. The first factor is that the FDA did not follow its own normal guidelines when it approved Reb A stevia. The second was that approval came after a company wanting to sell stevia in the United States submitted its own research. Aside from the possible risk of being carcinogenic, stevia's lack of calories may actually cause weight gain, as the body can be tricked into taking excess calories from other sources.
In rare instances, people may also have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Symptoms of being allergic to stevia include dizziness, hives, shortness of breath, general weakness, and wheezing. Consuming highly refined stevia may lead to nausea, feeling full or losing appetite, and bloating.
Possible short-term side effects
- anaphylaxis (rare)
- dizziness (rare)
- weakness (rare)
- loss of appetite
- promotes hemoglobin production (essential for carrying oxygen throughout the body)
- helps regulate digestion
- bactericidal against pathogenic bacteria
- may lower blood pressure
- sweetens food without calories
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Written by Jeff Volling | 01-01-2016
Written by Jeff Volling
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