Is stevia a perfect sugar substitute?

Stevia – sweetener, bestowed by nature – a frequent guest on the tables of those who like to eat and who want to lose weight. She, like a true star of nutrition, is winning the hearts of new fans. This plant owes its popularity, above all, to its low calorie content (some consider that it has no calories at all). What are the healing properties of stevia and why is it better than sugar?

“Genesis” Stevia

Stevia is a perennial “representative” of the Asteraceae family (its Latin name is Stevia rebaudina) hails from South and Central America. Already in the 16th century stevia interested physician and botanist from Valencia Stevus. The Guarani Indians – the indigenous Paraguayans – called the plant sweet grass and for centuries used to give a sweet taste to dishes and for the treatment of many diseases.

In 1899, the Swiss Moisés Santiago Bertoni – the world famous botanist – studied the property of stevia sweetening. And in 1931, his French colleague, Dr. Rebaudi, discovered the stevia glycosides responsible for the sweet taste of the plant. The first properties of the sweetener were used by the Japanese, who already in the 70s of the last century began its industrial cultivation and developed a method for obtaining an aqueous extract from the leaves.

The US Food and Drug Administration in 2008 authorized rebaudioside A (one of the stevioglycosides) as a sweetener. A similar European Commission only in the fall of 2011 recognized stevia as a safe food supplement (it is assigned the symbol E960). It was also established the allowable daily intake of stevia, which is 4 mg per kilogram of the body. A study conducted by the Expert Committee on Food Additives JECFA showed that even a one-hundred-fold excess of this dose has no negative effect on health.

Stevia: vitamins and minerals

Stevia Leaves except steviol glycosides (mainly stevizida and rebaudioside) abundance and other “values” – minerals and micro / macro elements: calcium, magnesium, selenium, potassium, silicon, iron, zinc, B vitamins, ascorbic acid and beta-carotene. Stevia and continue to study botany on the rad with nutritionists, because many of the biological active substances that are contained in stevia , not yet identified.

The healing properties of stevia

In folk medicine, Paraguay stevia is used in diseases of the heart, blood circulation, stomach pain and acidity. Its positive effect has been confirmed as an adjuvant therapy in hypertension and type 2 diabetes. It has antibacterial and antifungal effects. The sweet plant is used to treat periodontitis and dental caries.

Stevia effective in treating acne and ulcers. Stevia in the cosmetic industry is a frequent component of firming masks and toothpastes. As a low-calorie product, it is widely used in dietetics.

Perfect sugar substitute with stevia

Stevia , above all, is a flavor addition to dishes. Stevioglycosides , due to which it has a sweet taste, are about 300 times sweeter than sucrose, used by us in the form of refined sugar from beet or cane. For example, 1/4 teaspoon of the extract of this plant replaces a glass of sugar. While using a teaspoon of sugar, we consume 20 empty calories, stevia is completely devoid of them. Therefore, it is a valuable product for people who care about their figure or want to lose weight.

Researchers claim that the average resident of civilized countries exceeds the recommended daily rate of sugar by 10 times. This contributes not only to the excessive accumulation of body fat, but also to the development of dangerous diseases (hypertension, excessive growth of “bad” cholesterol, and risk of heart attack). Stevia, however, is beneficial for people who are plagued by type 2 diabetes and hypertension. The situation is similar with caries. Sugars are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria that cause caries, but stevia has an antibacterial effect. It, like sugar, can be used in drinks, juices, ice cream, desserts, jams or yogurt. Resilient stevia and to high temperatures, so it can be successfully used for baking. It is slightly more expensive than sugar, but also 10 times more efficient than it.

And although the benefits of stevia are obvious, its consumption is still small compared to sugar.

When using stevia for diabetes mellitus, hypoglycemic properties were noted . Doctors recommend that with the introduction of new products into the diet, we check the body’s response to them with a glucometer. With stevia, diabetics need to be especially careful, because plant can cause hypoglycemia.

Will sugar substitutes save you from obesity and diabetes?

Perhaps the transition from the usual Coke to diet does not help as much as previously thought. A study by Marquette University of Wisconsin (USA) in 2018 links the use of artificial sweeteners with obesity and diabetes. 1 The results show that sweeteners violate the mechanism of processing fats into energy.

Researchers fed one group of rats with high-sugar food; the second with artificial sweeteners, including aspartame and acesulfame potassium; and the third, control, without additives. Three weeks later, blood samples in different groups showed significant differences in the concentrations ofbiochemicals, fats and amino acids.

“We noticed that our body is able to absorb a small amount of sugar without consequences,” says Brian Hoffmann, an associate professor at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Only when the body is overloaded with sugar for a long time does its digestion system break down. We also noticed that the replacement of sugar with non-caloric artificial sweeteners also leads to failures in fat and energy metabolism. “

However, do not rush to return fully to sugar, as the results of this study do not indicate that sugar substitutes are better or worse than sugar; they simply indicate that sweeteners are also harmful. “… Moderation is the key if you find it difficult to completely eliminate something from your diet,” Hoffmann advised in his report.

This is not the first study, indicating that artificial sweeteners can adversely affect health. So, in the past, in 2017, in the Stroke magazine of the American Heart Association, a material was published that drinks with artificial sweeteners increase the risk of dementia and stroke three times

In 2013, at the University of Indiana at Purdue (USA) found that prolonged use of sweeteners lead to obesity in the same way as sugar, and in some cases – even more.

Even earlier, in 2007, studies at Boston University showed that consuming dietary Coca-Cola increases the risk of metabolic syndrome in the same way as normal. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a whole “bunch” of symptoms, including an increase in blood pressure, sugar levels,cholesterol and triglecerides (“blood fat”).

For a long time it was believed that artificial sweeteners are not digested in the intestines, not absorbed by the body and therefore, in principle, cannot cause obesity and diabetes. But in 2014, research at the Weizmann Institute of Israel refuted this assumption.

The results, published in the journal Nature, revealed the detrimental interaction between intestinal microbes and artificial sweeteners.
In a series of experiments on mice and humans, the researchers studied the interaction between microbes and sweeteners aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Depending on the types of microbes that existed in the intestines of the test subjects, several people and mice, after taking sweeteners, jumped blood sugar levels two, three or even four times. In this case, the rest he, oddly enough, has not changed.

“The difference was not just a few percent. In fact, the difference was huge, both in mice and in humans, ”said Eran Segal, a biologist at the Weizmann Institute.

The experiment consisted of four parts:

  1. Investigated the diet of 400 people.It turned out that those who consumed more artificial sweeteners had jumps in their blood sugar levels.
  2. Seven people who previously did not normally use artificial sweeteners were selected. The sweetener saccharin was added to their diet during the week. Four of them significantly increased blood sugar levels.
  3. A group of mice fed saccharin. Many of them had a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. However, not all.
  4. To those mice that did not respond to saccharin, the feces of the mice that responded to it were mixed into the food. After that, and their blood sugar levels began to jump after taking saccharin. That is, after contact with certain microbes in the intestines of resistant mice (together with feces), they also became exposed to the effects of a sweetener.

Thus, microbes were the missing link in erroneous theoretical arguments about the safety of sweeteners.

Scientists have yet to figure out which microbes and bacteria specifically cause susceptibility to the negative effects of sweeteners, their role in the body, is it safe to get rid of them and how best to do it.

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