The Truth About Stevia: Health Benefit1s and Side Effects Explained

Stevia, a member of the chrysanthemum family, has two forms: the one you can buy in stores and the one you can grow at home. The store-bought version, like Truvia and Stevia in the Raw, is made from a refined extract called Reb-A, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar. These products are considered “novel sweeteners” because they’re blended with other sweeteners like Erythritol and Dextrose. Some of its brands also contain natural flavors, which the FDA allows if they have no added colors, artificial flavors, or synthetics. You can grow it at home and use the leaves to sweeten food and drinks or buy Reb-A sweeteners in liquid, powder, or granulated forms.

Production of Stevia

The sweeteners are made from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana (Bertoni) plant, an herbal shrub native to South America that has been used for food and medicinal purposes for centuries. Its leaves and crude extracts have been sold as a dietary supplement. Stevia sweeteners are produced by extracting Steviol Glycosides from the leaves of the plant and purifying them to remove the bitter attributes found in the crude extract. Steviol glycosides have a common backbone called Steviol and include compounds like Stevioside and various forms of Rebaudioside, with Rebaudioside A (reb A) being the most common. Some Steviol Glycosides are also produced through bioconversion and fermentation processes, resulting in better-tasting and less bitter Rebaudioside, such as Reb M, being produced on a larger scale.

Stevia Health Benefits

Stevia is a natural sugar substitute that has been used for centuries in South America and Asia to sweeten drinks like tea. It can be beneficial for people with diabetes as it doesn’t add carbohydrates and can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. However, more research is needed to confirm its benefits for diabetes. Stevia may also aid in weight management and help lower the risk of obesity and related health conditions, but some studies have shown weight gain due to the brain’s response to sweetness. More research is needed to confirm its weight loss benefits. Stevia is a good substitute for sugar in low-calorie or ketogenic diets as it adds few to no calories to your diet.

Replacing sugar-sweetened foods and drinks with those sweetened with stevia sweeteners can aid in weight loss and management. According to the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), over 50% of successful weight loss maintainers who consume low-calorie beverages regularly reported that it helped control their calorie intake. However, observational research on the impact of low-calorie sweeteners on body weight has conflicting conclusions compared to data from randomized controlled trials. Some observational studies have linked low-calorie sweetener use to increased body weight and waist circumference in adults, while others have shown no association. The same goes for children and adolescents, with observational studies linking low-calorie sweetener consumption to increased body weight, while randomized trials have not. Recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that observational studies showed no association between low-calorie sweetener intake and body weight, with a small positive association with higher BMI.

Stevia Side Effects

Although raw stevia is not approved by the FDA, pure extracts are considered safe. The FDA has approved highly purified steviol glycosides from stevia leaves as safe to use. Products that contain words like “stevia extract” or “Stevia Rebaudiana” in their ingredient list are thought to be safe. However, it’s important to avoid whole stevia leaves or crude extracts as the FDA doesn’t have enough information about their potential impact on health, including risks to the kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. Stevia may also affect healthy gut bacteria, causing gas and bloating, and mixed with Erythritol, it may raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s crucial to read food labels and know which type of sweetener is included. Stevia is sometimes used in diet cola soft drinks and flavored waters. Stevia may taste bitter to some people but others think it tastes like menthol. It can be used to sweeten food and drinks, sprinkled on cereal, or added to hot or cold drinks. When baking with stevia, it’s best to check the package for the sugar-to-stevia ratio and experiment with different amounts or extra ingredients to get the right texture.

Bottom Line

All types of foods and drinks, including those made with stevia sweeteners, can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Stevia sweeteners have been considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in the US since 2008, and their safety has been acknowledged by many international health agencies. Studies have examined the impact of low-calorie sweeteners on chronic conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Observational studies linking low-calorie sweeteners to these conditions cannot demonstrate a causal relationship and suffer from methodological issues like confounding and reverse causality. In contrast, randomized controlled trials consistently support the usefulness of low-calorie sweeteners like stevia in nutritional strategies for weight loss and maintenance. Stevia sweeteners do not negatively affect blood glucose or insulin levels in randomized controlled trials, and available research does not suggest that low- and no-calorie sweeteners adversely affect the gut microbiome. Adopting a healthy, active lifestyle that suits personal goals and priorities is essential for supporting well-being. Choosing foods and drinks sweetened with low- and zero calorie stevia tablet like All-Natural Stevia can help reduce added sugar intake and keep calories in check, which are important components for maintaining health and reducing the risk of lifestyle-related diseases.

In conclusion, AyuVeda Herbs All-Natural Stevia stevia is a natural sweetener that can be a great alternative to sugar for those who want to maintain a healthy diet or have diabetes. However, it is important to be careful when choosing stevia products, as some may contain additives that can have negative effects on your health. It’s best to read food labels and opt for pure extracts that are considered safe by the FDA. Additionally, while stevia may have health benefits, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness for weight loss and diabetes. Overall, stevia can be a great addition to your diet when used in moderation and with caution.