Stevia – Corporate giants “discover” an ancient sugar alternative
Posted On August 7, 2008
Don’t you think it’s amazing that a substance can be used for centuries and not until two corporate giants fight over it’s use is it touted as beneficial and NEW.
This is the case with Stevia – a South American plant that has been used as a sugar alternative for hundreds of years. It is said to be 300 times sweeter than cane sugar (that’s even sweeter than liquorice root!). Of course the world has known about Stevia, it is not a new discovery, but due to lack of recognition (or ignorance or a ploy to keep the sugar industry lucrative, who knows?) it has not really taken off as a sweetener until more recently. In fact, in the US it was banned until 1994 (without much explanation for the ban). From then on it had to be labeled as a dietary supplement, but is not allowed to be called a food additive. Stevia is banned in quite a few countries even though in 2006 the “World Health Organisation (WHO) performed a thorough evaluation of recent experimental studies of stevioside and steviols conducted on animals and humans, and concluded that “stevioside and rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro or in vivo and that the genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives in vitro is not expressed in vivo.” The report also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity. Furthermore, the report noted that “stevioside has shown some evidence of pharmacological effects in patients with hypertension or with type-2 diabetes” but concluded that further study was required to determine proper dosage.” “Stevia.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 3 Aug 2008, 10:16 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 7 Aug 2008.
The reason why Stevia is now in the news a lot is because Coca-Cola and Pepsi are in a race to bring to the market products sweetened with a stevia derived calorie-free sweetener. Of course Stevia itself is naturally calorie free and has some added benefits such as inhibiting plaque and not raising blood sugars. Amazing that because these two corporations have shown significant interest it makes a Stevia derived sweetener a lot more attractive to countries all over the world even though it remains banned in many of them. If you would like to know more about Stevia check out Isabella’s site Herbs Are Special – she also has a fantastic book out How can I use HERBS in my daily life? (an absolute MUST have).
I guess any publicity that raises awareness of herbal alternatives is good publicity. I just wish that the plant and all it’s benefits were looked at and not just a heavily processed part of it. Using the derivative sweetener is as herbal as taking aspirin because it is derived from willow bark.