Stevia Extract Facts


Stevia is a type of herb that is native to Central and South America. Recently, extract from the plant is being regarded as another new sugar substitute that would provide a low sugar and low carbohydrate alternative, especially since it is about 300 times sweeter than sugar.


The stevia plant extract is mainly used as an artificial sweetener. It is a new alternative to other artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame, which are considered by some to be carcinogens. Scientists are also studying stevia as a method of treating diseases because it may contain useful chemicals. Stevia extract may be the first product that will be used in both food, as an additive, and in medicine.


The Guarani tribes found in Paraguay and Brazil have been using stevia as a sweetener for hundreds for years, as the plant grows naturally in South America. The tribes also used stevia to treat heartburn and other stomach ills. In 1899, Moises Santiago Bertoni was the first non-Native American to discover the plant and record the sweet taste its leaves had. The compounds, stevioside and rebaudioside, are the cause of the sweet taste. Japan was the first to use stevia as an artificial sweetener on a large scale in the 1970s. Since then, many other nations have followed suit, including the United States, which authorized the use of stevia extract as a food additive in December 2008.


Studies have also shown that stevia can be used to treat high blood pressure, obesity and hypertension. Stevia may also promote insulin production and enhance the body's tolerance to glucose. Both of those uses are highly beneficial for people suffering from diabetes. Many people consider stevia to be a healthy substitute for sugar. The low amount of carbohydrates found in stevia also make it helpful for those on a carbohydrate intake restricted diet.

Possible Drawbacks

Some studies have shown that stevia affects reproductive capabilities in rats. However, unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia has not caused any symptoms in rats that would suggest that it would be a carcinogen. There is much controversy surrounding the studies involving stevia because it has come to the attention of the public eye so recently that studies have not had the time to produce truly meaningful results.

The Future for Stevia

Since the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the use of stevia extract as a food additive in December 2008, many food and drink companies are starting to incorporate the use of stevia in order to replace sugar, aspartame, and saccharine. The widespread use of stevia in Coca Cola and other soft drinks may provide a healthy alternative to the sugar laden drinks. Stevia is already available as an artificial sweetener under the name Truvia, marketed by Coca Cola.

Article provided by eHow Home & Garden | Stevia Extract Facts