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Is Stevia Safer Than Other Artificial Sweeteners?
Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as Stevia, was first mentioned by the Spanish physician and botanist Pedro Jaime Esteve (1500-1556) who found it in the northeast of the area now known as Paraguay.
Guarani Indians of this area like in southern Brazil have been using “ka’a he’ê” (“sweet”), as it is called Guaraní, since centuries to make sweets in yerba mate, and many groups of people report using it. of this plant in the control of fertility of women, apply concentrated stevia infusions for a long time.
It is precisely this immune system that has been discussed since the 70s until today in the scientific literature. The reason is simple: Who wants to drink sweets that suddenly make you weak?
Stevia leaves contain a complex of glycosides (substances in which one or more sugar molecules are bound to a non-carbohydrate moiety). These compounds give leaves that are very sweet, about 30-45 times sweeter than sucrose, the sweet product of refined sugar. To date, ten different substances (specifically, all steviol glycosides) have been isolated that are responsible for the sweet taste of the plant: stevioside, rebaudioside A, B, C, D, E and F, dulcoside A, rubusoside and steviolbioside. The highest level of sweetness comes from Stevioside and rebaudioside A, responsible for the extract of Stevia is 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose with almost zero calories (about 0.2 calories per gram).
Both sweet steviol glycosides are diterpenic glycosides, products made from two molecules of various sugars and a molecule called steviol. Steviol serves as the “bone” of the chemical structure and is structurally similar to the hormones gibberellin and kaurene. Many studies show that the glycosides are – at least partially – metabolized in the body to release sugar molecules and steviol.
Is It Safe to Use Stevia Instead of Sugar?
It is precisely this compound steviol that has been known for years to toxicologists. In studies with bacteria and in cell-cultures it has been shown that this compound is genotoxic (i.e. able to change genetic information). However, recent studies with mice, rats and hamsters, show that it should have a high content of steviol to cause serious damage to DNA, the body of life that has all our genetic information.
Searching toxicological information, there are hundreds of publications discussing the health effects of stevia extract, but the results are not the same. In particular, the effects of fertility and potential carcinogenicity of Steviosides have been controversial in the scientific world. It was a study published in 1968 by Professor Joseph Kuc Purdue University in Indiana, USA, that started the discussion about stevia and fertility. Prof. Kuc has detected an anti-inflammatory effect in female rats that were given high doses of stevia. The fertility rate of rats decreased to 79 percent.
While the results of this study have not been confirmed by other research groups, research published in 1999 by Prof. Melis of the University of Sao Paulo also reported a reduction in sperm count in male rats after high doses of Stevia glycosides. Concerns of carcinogenicity or mutagenicity have not been confirmed in most of the toxicological studies.
Although the negative health effects of Stevia have never been tested on humans directly, authorities in the United States, Canada and the European Union have concluded that stevia extracts are unsafe. conceived in the application as a sweetener for tablets because it is not toxic for a long time. education. In comparison, authorities in other countries such as Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico have a different view and accept the use of extracts of Stevia as a natural sweetener. . In a few countries, especially in Latin America and Asia, Stevia and its extracts exist and are not recognized as regulated. In Japan, Stevia extracts have been sold since 1971 as sweeteners and there are no reports of health problems associated with these products.
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Stevia extracts as “food supplements” but not as sweeteners. Only the glycoside Rebaudioside A in its pure form is considered “Grass Accepted” (GRAS), since December 2008. In contrast, Stevioside, another important component of Stevia extracts, does not recognized as GRAS by the FDA.
Both, in Canada and the European Union (EU), the use of Stevia as a sweetener has been restricted due to the fact that there is not enough evidence to prove its safety. But now the situation seems to be changing. In April 2010, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a new evaluation of the available toxicological data. As a result of this review, Stevioside and Stevia extracts are generally now considered safe when used as sweeteners – at least in certain conditions.
EFSA established a healthy daily intake (ADI) of 4 mg per kilogram of body weight of steviosides, the same ADI recommended by the World Health Organization according to WHO data published in 2008. In comments, adults weighing 70 kg can drink all. a day 280 mg of Stevia extract does not pose any health risks. As Stevia extract is about 250 times sweeter than table sugar, an adult can replace 70 grams of sugar per day with Stevia extract. This is equal to 4-5 tablespoons or about 20 teaspoons of sugar. As children gain weight, the dose should be reduced in proportion to their weight.
It is interesting to compare this information with Aspartame, the world’s most used synthetic sweetener. International food safety officials have set the acceptable daily value (ADI) for aspartame at 40 mg/kg of body weight based on the 1980 Joint FAO/WHO Expert Report Report on the Food Agreement (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). This means – strictly according to the available toxicological data – Stevia is considered to be approximately 10 times more “toxic” than Aspartame.
Although Stevia sweetener is a product isolated from the plant and not a product of a chemical process, the main thing is not wrong, because “natural” does not necessarily mean not there is a risk. In conclusion, Stevia extracts can be considered safe if not consumed in large quantities. The idea that these “natural” products are safer than other commercial products that contain sugar tablets is not supported by the chemical data.
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