Stevia Sweetener – Interesting facts, benefits, side effects

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Stevia Sweetener - Interesting facts, benefits, side effects

Interesting data

Is a grass of the family Asteraceae (also called Compositae), which grows in tropical and subtropical America (mainly in the center and south). the plant it grows from 2 to 4 feet tall with thin and branched stems, and thrives in temperate regions and in some tropical regions.

Originally from Paraguay, it is currently found in countries such as Korea, Brazil, Japan and China (it is the world's largest exporter of stevioside products).

There are more than 150 species, but only one stands out for its magnificent properties as a sweetener, namely Stevia rebaudiana.


In its original form, this herb was marketed as a powder. Although it is very sweet (up to 200 times sweeter than refined sugar), it still leaves a bitter taste, due to a compound called rebaudioside A, essentially the sweetest aromatic compound of the S. rebaudiana leaf. In addition, this substance does not leave a bitter taste. The main producers decided that both stevioside and rebaudioside A become part of the artificial sweeteners based on this herb, to maintain a balance.

Although it is a plant before it reaches the shelves of stores as a sweetener, it goes through many manufacturing processes (patented process of 40 steps), and other compounds such as erythritol (a food additive), the "natural flavors" are added and dextrose. a simple fast-absorbing carbohydrate with a high glycemic index that is usually extracted from wheat, corn or rice.

FDA ban

Although it was accepted almost unanimously throughout the world, the plant It was banned at some point in time in the United States (in 1991 by the FDA), under a preliminary study that incriminated the sweetener as a cause of cancer or at least high risk in this regard. The reason stated by the FDA was "the toxicological information on stevia is inadequate to prove its safety".

But in 1995, the restriction of its commercialization in the stores of the United States was lifted, after another study that recommended that the grass itself should no longer be categorized as a natural sweetener, but as an artificial and safe one. Then, in December 2008, the FDA accepted this sweetener as "GRAS" (generally recognized as safe) and, since then, it can be found as an artificial sweetener in almost all food stores in the United States.

In 2012, the FDA posted a note on its website about crude plants:

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"The FDA has not allowed the use of crude S. rebaudiana or raw S. rebaudiana extracts because these compounds have not been approved for use as food additives.The FDA does not consider that its use in foods is GRAS to light of the reports in the literature that raise concerns about the use of these compounds, among these concerns are the control of blood sugar and side effects in the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems.

With regard to the major US producers, it took some years to find the right formula to implement the sweetener in commercial products, and now it is found in chewing gums, soft drinks, wines, yogurts, sweets, kitchens and baking products.

In other countries, such as Japan, where artificial sweeteners were banned more than 40 years ago, this plant has passed the "test", but only after more than 40,000 clinical trials. However, there are not enough studies on the long-term effects of the "miracle sweetener" and it is still suspected that it is causing complications, especially if the national consumer uses it in large quantities.

Many names, same product

This sweetener is sold with so many names that it would be difficult to identify them all, but you should know that the currently famous soft drinks all over the world already use this herb with the name of "PureVia", "Truvia" and "SweetLeaf". "More than 5,000 drinks and food products are currently using this artificial sweetener.

So, if you are curious to read the composition of these popular products, but do not recognize the names, know that it is essentially the same, with small differences in the reports of rebaudioside and stevioside, but it is still the same plant. It is better to read the label next time, but do not be alarmed. In any case, if you order a low-calorie soda, surely you will also find processed stevia.

Side effects of STevia

Genetic mutations: some long-term professional studies confirmed that this herb may have side effects on the general health of the consumer, namely the degree of cancer risk. The study was conducted by a group of toxicologists at the University of California at Los Angeles, namely, the demand for nutritionists from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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In addition, the authors (Sarah Kobylewski and Curtis D. Eckhert) concluded that stevioside, not rebaudioside A, can cause chromosomal damage, genetic mutations and DNA breaks. They think that these changes could contribute to the malignancy of diseases such as cancer, although no one has studied exactly whether these substances may or may not cause cancer in animal patterns. (one)

Type 2 diabetes and obesity

A study by the Weizmann Institute of Science concluded that artificial sweeteners can have detrimental effects on our bodies that carry an increased risk of diabetes and obesity (the illnesses that many diet soda drinkers hope to avoid). (two)


A study conducted in 1999 by the Department of Biology, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, which sought to discover the fertility effects of chronic administration (2 months) of this plant extract, found that it could affect hormones because their glycosides They have a structure comparable to plant hormones. like gibberellin. (3)

"… the chronic administration of an aqueous extract of S. rebaudiana produced a decrease in the final weight of the testes, the seminal vesicle and the epidermis of the cauda.In addition, the fructose content of the accessory sex glands and the concentration of sperm in the epididymis diminish. "

They also concluded: "The treatment tended to decrease the level of testosterone in plasma, probably because of a putative affinity of extract glycosides for a particular androgen receptor, and there was no alteration in the level of luteinizing hormone." These data agree with the possibility that plant extracts may decrease the fertility of male rats. "

In 1968, Professor Joseph Kuc conducted a study to evaluate the contraceptive properties of the herb. The results? Joseph Kuc established a visible and relatively long-term reduction in the number of offspring born to female rats that he fed with a solution of S. Rebaudiana:

"A decoction in water of the S. rebaudiana Bertoni plant reduces fertility in adult female rats with proven fertility. The decoction continues to decrease fertility for at least 50 to 60 days after the intake is stopped. "(4)


While the natural herb stevia can be used safely as a healthy substitute for sugar, the processed form must be avoided.

References – one, two, 3, 4

Stevia Sweetener – Interesting facts, benefits, side effects, Source:

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