Still The Sweetest Secret Around

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

August 01, 2012

  • An FDA witch hunt that still haunts us
  • Even your teeth will thank you
  • What makes stevia the best sweetener alternative

Before 2008, the FDA was on one of its crazier missions. It raided a small tea warehouse in Marin County, California the way the DEA might raid a drug house in Miami. The crime?

They used stevia to sweeten one of their tea blends.

At the time – the mid 1990’s – stevia was classified as a “dietary supplement” and could not be used as a “food additive.” And both aspartame and high fructose corn syrup had just hit the market in full force. (I’ll let you develop your own conspiracy theories. And I probably wouldn’t disagree with them.)

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Americans were being kept from one of the healthiest sweeteners, which had been used safely in South American countries for hundreds of years. Natural health advocates considered it a travesty.

Today, thankfully, the madness has ended, and stevia has been legal and widely available as an alternative to sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners since 2008.

And yet, perhaps because of its notorious beginnings in this country, this natural herbal sweetener remains one of the best-kept secrets in town. A secret that needs to be told…

 

In the past two issues, Sugar By Any Other Name and When Eating Your Veggies Backfires On Your Thyroid, I’ve discussed with you the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, the downright evil of artificial sweeteners, and the overload of sugar that is threatening our health – causing epidemic proportions of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

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In this issue, I want you to know more about my recommendation to use stevia as a replacement sweetener.

First, the obvious. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar, so it takes just a pinch to sweeten up a beverage. It comes from the sweet leaf of an herb, and can be used in crystal for liquid form. And you can even use it when baking or cooking.

Unlike sugar, stevia is not a carbohydrate, and it naturally has zero calories. This means it doesn’t trigger an insulin response, and in fact, may even lower blood sugar levels. It also doesn’t reduce leptin levels – the hormone that tells you to stop eating – which makes it much better for you than high fructose corn syrup, which causes obesity by suppressing leptin signals.

Stevia also doesn’t cause tooth decay the way sugar does. One study even shows that stevia improves oral health. It contains anti-bacterial properties that kill streptococcus mutans, a bacteria in the mouth that forms dental plaque.

This is enough to makes stevia the best option on the market in my book. But, as they say in late night infomercials, wait, there’s more…

One of the traditional uses of stevia was to reduce blood pressure, and recent research is emerging that supports this use. One study showed that, as a dietary supplement, 250 mg a day can have a significant impact on blood pressure levels, although daily use in small amounts as a sweetener is not likely to have this same effect.

Stevia is currently being studied further, to find out if it also has anti-cancer, anti-diarrheal and anti-inflammatory effects. I won’t be surprised if we begin hearing many positive reports from these studies, and I will keep an eye on results as they come in and keep you informed. I do believe we are just scratching the surface of what this herb offers us.

There are a few things to keep in mind about stevia…
If you are diabetic or hypertensive and on medication, you may want to monitor your levels closely when you make a switch to stevia. You may need to adjust your medication as a result.

Also, there is some question about whether stevia has a slight contraceptive effect. In small doses, this is likely to be negligible. But women who are or want to become pregnant should use sparingly, just in case.

For more about sweeteners, both natural and artificial, please refer to the previous two issues Sugar By Any Other Name and When Eating Your Veggies Backfires On Your Thyroid. When you weight the benefits and drawbacks of all your options, I think you’ll agree stevia offers you the sweetest, safest, healthiest option of them all.

Resources

Hsieh MH, Chan P, Sue YM, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: a two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Clin Ther 25 (11): 2797–808. (November 2003).

Ferri LA, et.al., Investigation of the antihypertensive effect of oral crude stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension. Phytother Res 20 (9): 732–6. (September 2006).

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