Is Stevia Extract Safe? An Expert's Perspective

Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. Although the FDA does not approve the consumption of raw stevia, pure extracts are considered safe. The FDA has approved only highly purified steviol glycosides from stevia leaves as they are considered safe to use. Stevia sweeteners are calorie-free and can be used to reduce the intake of added sugars while still providing a sweet taste.

When consumed in moderation, stevia extract is generally not considered to pose health risks for most people, including those who have diabetes or are pregnant. It may even provide certain health benefits compared to sugar. However, it is important to look for products that contain stevia as the only ingredient, as some brands contain dextrose or maltodextrin which can increase blood sugar levels. Stevia is known to act as a vasodilator, causing blood vessels to widen and lower overall blood pressure.

It is also a diuretic, meaning that it increases the rate at which the body expels water and electrolytes from the body through urine. In addition, some stevia products contain added sugar alcohols that can cause unpleasant symptoms when consumed in large quantities. Research suggests that stevia may improve bacterial diversity and reduce inflammation in the colon. A study also found that subjects who consumed water sweetened with stevia experienced a lower feeling of hunger before a meal compared to those who consumed plain water. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that high-purity stevia sweeteners are safe for children to consume within the recommended daily dosage. Foods and beverages made with stevia sweeteners are often recommended to people with diabetes as an alternative to sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and as a way to help them satisfy their desire for sweet taste and, at the same time, control their intake of carbohydrates. Extensive research shows that stevia sweeteners do not raise blood glucose levels or otherwise affect blood glucose control in humans.

Adopting an active and healthy lifestyle that fits personal goals and priorities is vital to supporting personal well-being. Choosing foods and beverages sweetened with low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia, is one way to reduce the consumption of added sugars and keep calories under control. In conclusion, when used as a sweetener or to flavor foods, experts don't consider highly purified stevia to cause adverse side effects. While research on the gut microbiome is still in its infancy, it's been recognized that the microbes that live in our intestinal tract can contribute significantly to our health. Therefore, it is important to consume stevia in moderation and adopt an active and healthy lifestyle for optimal health.

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