Stevia may be unique among food ingredients in that it does not add calories. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia comes from a plant. There are some questions about its effectiveness as a weight loss aid or as a useful dietary measure for diabetics.
Italian botanists discovered stevia in the late 1800s, although the local Guarani people had been using it for centuries. The leaves of this plant have many uses. In traditional medicine in these regions, stevia is used to treat burns, colic, stomach problems, and sometimes as a contraceptive. The leaves are also chewed on their own as a dessert.
Today, stevia is part of the market for sugar substitutes. According to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), high-purity steviol glycosides are extracts of the stevia plant and are generally considered safe for use in foods.
The USDA estimates that from the 1970s to 2000, Americans added more sugar to their diets each year. When Americans gave up added sugar, they turned to sugar-like extracts. in 2000, only 18 percent of American adults used low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners. Now, 24 percent of adults and 12 percent of children use sugar substitutes.
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Does stevia work?
Stevia is calorie-free and 200 times sweeter than the same concentration of sugar. Other studies suggest stevia may have additional health benefits.
According to a 2017 article in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, stevia has the potential to treat endocrine disorders, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, but more research is needed. Existing research is promising for the use of stevia in hypertension.
In theory, a calorie-free source of sweetness is an obvious dietary solution. But some studies suggest that replacing sugar with artificial or low-calorie sweeteners may not ultimately lead to real-life weight loss.
A 2004 study of rats found that low-calorie sweeteners caused animals to overeat, possibly because the perceived sweetness did not match the expected sugar calories.
However, there is also evidence that stevia does not change eating habits or impair metabolism in the short term. a 2010 study published in the journal Appetite tested the effects of several artificial sweeteners on sugar resistance in 19 lean and 12 obese people.
The study found that people did not overeat after eating a meal made with stevia instead of sugar. Their blood sugar was lower after eating stevia than after eating sugar, and insulin levels were lower on foods with stevia than on sucrose and aspartame.
Is stevia safe?
As mentioned earlier, the question of whether stevia is safe to eat depends largely on what someone means by "stevia. The FDA has not approved the use of stevia leaf or "crude stevia extract" as a food additive, and the FDA has warned that studies of these forms of stevia have raised concerns about blood sugar control and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems.
There are a number of health concerns with the stevia plant. Stevia may cause low blood pressure, which can be a problem for some people taking antihypertensive medications. Certain chemicals naturally found in stevia that may cause genetic mutations and cancer also continue to be studied.
Stevia may also interact with antifungal agents, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-microbial agents, anti-cancer drugs, anti-viral drugs, appetite suppressants, calcium channel blockers, cholesterol-lowering drugs, drugs that increase urination, fertility agents and other medications. As a safety precaution, one should consult a doctor before deciding to take large amounts of stevia.
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