The Pros and Cons of Stevia as a Sweetener

Stevia is a natural sweetener that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, and is considered to be a healthier alternative to sugar. While it can reduce calories in foods and beverages, there are some potential side effects that should be taken into consideration. The main downside of stevia is that it can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as it is often mixed with erythritol, which has been found to have these effects.

Possible side effects include nausea, bloating, low blood pressure, and hormonal disorders. Additionally, stevia has a slightly bitter taste that some people don't like. Products made with sugar alcohols can also cause bloating, diarrhea, and other stomach problems in some people. The World Health Organization has established the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of steviol at 4 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight, or 12 mg of stevia extract per kg of body weight. However, the FDA has not approved raw stevia and stevia leaf extracts as food additives, so companies cannot import them into the United States for use as sweeteners.

Most of the studies that demonstrate the negative side effects of stevia on the body have been conducted in laboratory animals. The effect of stevia on the level of urea was more evident in male groups than in female groups after 8 and 18 weeks of administration. Additionally, after 16 weeks of administration, sucralose and stevia significantly raised the cholesterol level in male and female mice. Prolonged administration of sucralose or stevia also raised HbA1c levels significantly, especially in groups of women. Stevia products made with Reb-A are considered safe for pregnant women and those with diabetes. However, people with chronic low blood pressure or those taking medications to lower blood pressure should talk to a doctor before adding stevia to their diet. You can substitute sugar for stevia as an ingredient in beverages, such as tea or coffee, or for cooking and baking.

In general, it is considered to be a healthier alternative to sugar. However, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects before adding it to your diet.

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