Wednesday, 7 May 2008

What about stevia?

Stevia is a plant that’s in the sunflower family and is native of Paraguay. It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar without the calories.

The people of Paraguay and Brazil use it to make sweet herbal tea and it’s been adopted by Japan that uses it in various products including soy sauce and sweet pickles. It’s also found in their Diet Cokes. Rebiana is the trade name for a patent-pending sweetener developed by the Coca-Cola Company, jointly with Cargill.

Stevia claims to strengthen the immune system, enhance the body’s natural production of vitamins, promote regularity, support liver health, help control the formation of free radicals, nourish the pancreas, be an excellent weight loss aid, help minimize hunger sensations, reduce cravings for sweets and fatty foods, aid in digestion, decrease hypertension, stabilize blood glucose levels, shorten recovery time from cold and flu and aid in addictions to tobacco- wow!

Agriculture Canada is currently growing the plant to determine the feasibility of growing the crop for commercial purposes. Coca Cola also plans to obtain approval for Rebiana as a food additive within the US by 2009.

Good luck since stevia is actually banned in the European Union, Singapore and China. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the States forbid the use of stevia in foods. In Canada and the States, it can only be sold in health food stores as a dietary supplement (things sold in health food stores don’t have to be approved by Health Canada or the US Food and Drug Administration).

Once upon a time, stevia could be found in foods in the US, like in Celestial Seasonings herbal tea. However, in the early 90s someone tattled to the FDA, pointing out that stevia had not been approved- rumour has it that it was Monsanto (aspartame manufacturer) that blew the whistle...

So why is stevia banned in so many places? There’s lack of proof that it’s safe. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has placed it in their ‘everyone should avoid’ category. High doses fed to rats reduced sperm production and increased cell proliferation in their testicles, potentially causing infertility. There’s also a possibility that it may be a carcinogen.

The CSPI states that “small amounts are probably safe”. A member of the CSPI pointed out that: “it may be that with further experiments and further research we'll find that stevia would really not be a problem in the amounts that consumers would be consuming but right now the record shows stevia shouldn't be approved yet until there's more research."

I choose to stay away from it... but it’s your choice.

Centre for Science in the Public Interest Health Letter. Nutrition Action. “Chemical Cuisine: A guide to food additives. May 2008.
Nestle, Marion. What to Eat. North Point Press. 2006.


Jme said...

Great info!

Anonymous said...

great info indeed! Personnally I think it's a bit of a conspiracy by other artificial sweetner giants to keep stevia down, as if a no toxic alternative came along, they would lose alot of business! But maybe ill slow down on how much i use :)


Anonymous said...

it helped me a lot ...thanksssss