First of all, what is Stevia:
It is a tropical plant that is native to South America and it's extract is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
It has a low glycemic index, helps to control obesity, improve glucose tolerance and lower blood pressure. Why then would the FDA prevent it from being used as an additive in foods? I wonder if it could have something to do with MONEY?
LINK to Stevia / Natural Sweetener
What is stevia?Stevia is a tropical plant native to South America. Its extract has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. Although some people complain of its staying power in the mouth or its sometimes licorice-like aftertaste, it is a popular natural alternative sweetener. As a sweetener, it is low glycemic and has added benefits in potentially helping to control obesity, enhance glucose tolerance, and reduce blood pressure. You would think that with this kind of pedigree, it would qualify as the perfect sugar substitute and be approved for use as an alternative sweetener everywhere. You would be half right. It is widely used throughout Asia (particularly Japan) and South America -- not so in the US, most of Europe, and Canada, where it is banned as a food additive. In the United States, and Canada it's allowed as a supplement, but not in food. In Europe, it's only allowed as an additive to animal feed.
This whole separation thing between food additives and supplements as seen in the US and Canada is actually very nebulous -- and deliberately so. Although the rulings as written by the various government agencies might appear clear, government authorities choose to interpret them as the mood suits. A good example is the recent censure of Celestial Seasonings teas. Celestial Seasonings followed the letter of the law by labeling their Zingers tea an herbal supplement and including a supplements facts panel on the label, but as it turns out, that didn't matter. To quote from the FDA notice, "Notwithstanding your use of the term 'Herbal Supplement' to identify the product and your use of a supplement facts label for nutrition labeling, your Zingers Tangerine Orange Tea is subject to regulation as a conventional food and not a dietary supplement... Therefore, your stevia-containing Zingers Tangerine Orange Tea is adulterated within the meaning of section 402(a)(2)(C) of the Act."
What are the studies that support it?In fact, stevia has been studied extensively. In addition to the studies cited above showing its benefits in regard to obesity, glucose tolerance, and high blood pressure, there are numbers of other studies proving its safety. For example, a 1991 study in Thailand found that even at doses 1,000 times normal human dosage, hamsters demonstrated no difference in growth rate or sexual performance -- even through three generations.
In 2004, researchers at the KU Leuven (Belgium) organized an international symposium on " The Safety of Stevioside." Scientists from all over the world who attended concluded that stevioside is safe:
- Stevioside is not carcinogenic. On the contrary, studies in Japan have proven that stevioside reduces breast cancer in rats as well as skin cancers in animals models.
- Stevioside is not absorbed by the human gut. Only bacteria of the colon degrade stevioside to steviol. Part of this steviol is absorbed through the intestine but is quickly metabolized to steviol glucuronide and excreted in the urine. No free steviol is detected in the blood.
- Although steviol showed a weak mutagenic activity in one very sensitive strain of bacteria, even high concentrations of oral steviol were harmless (up to 2 g/kg body weight)!
What are the problematic studies?So is everything rosy for stevia? Not necessarily. There have been some problematic studies. For example:
- A 1984 study found that although stevioside was not cancer causing, steviol, a metabolite of stevioside, is indeed mutagenic in the presence of a specific metabolic activation system -- although subsequent studies have either not found it so, or found the effect to be so low as to be insignificant (1, 2). And again, as discussed earlier, any steviol that passes through the intestinal tract is metabolized to steviol glucuronide and excreted in the urine. In fact, some studies have shown that stevia may actually be cancer preventive.
- There were also studies that indicated stevia might negatively affect fertility in rats, but those studies were later refuted by more reliable studies involving higher numbers of rats and more controlled protocols. And this merely reinforces the results of numerous other studies.
It should also be noted that all of the problematic studies have used purified stevia at levels far, far, far higher than would ever happen in a normal human diet. Is this important (after all, testing for mutagenic effects at high doses is standard procedure)? The problem is that just because it's standard doesn't make it meaningful. Keep in mind that even things that are healthy can become deadly if taken in large amounts. For example, if you have 100 times the normal dosage of protein each day, you will destroy your liver in short order. If you have a 100 times the normal dosage of water, you will die in a single day -- in a rather messy explosion.
The bottom line here is that all of the problematic studies have been conducted on rats and hamsters with absurdly high doses. In the real world, stevia has been in use with hundreds of millions of people throughout Asia and South America for as much as a quarter of a century. We're talking billions of doses and no sign of increased cancer or lowered fertility. If only the alternative sweeteners that the regulators allow could match that kind of track record.
(Let's take a look at what you have just read about Stevia (vs) ASPARTAME a widely FDA approved artificial sweetener and food additive) Which one do you want in your cup of tea, morning coffee or on your cereal in the morning?)
What are the absurdities of the regulators' positions on sweeteners?But all that aside, it would at least be understandable if the regulators played with a fair deck and applied equal standards to all alternative sweeteners. But they do not.
- According to the FDA's own audit on aspartame, the Bressler Report, aspartame triggers brain tumors, mammary tumors, pancreatic tumors, ovarian tumors, pituitary adenomas, uterine tumors, etc. A senior FDA toxicologist, the late Dr. Adrian Gross, who tried to prevent the approval of aspartame, told Congress that it violated the Delaney Amendment because it triggered brain tumors (Congressional Record SID835:131 - 8/1/85).
- Aspartame has also been shown to trigger birth defects and miscarriages -- not just if the mother uses it, but the father also.
- Before aspartame was approved in beverages in 1983, the National Soft Drink Association created a THIRTY PAGE PROTEST (that was later read into the Congressional Record) declaring that aspartame was NOT stable, and that it could actually make unwary users FATTER!
In any event, I will stay with Stevia as long as it is available I AVOID the artificial sweeteners like the plague. SEE my other posts on artificial sweeteners (vs.) Stevia, and then YOU DECIDE.
Ex 15:26............I am the Lord who heals you.
Ps 103:3...........Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases...
Ex 23:25...........serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you.