This title seems a bit awkward, as Stevia is already known as sweetleaf for centuries by the native south Americans, and also is used as a sugar substitute since the 1970s in Japan. So why the western world needs so long to recognize it?
The plant Stevia is originally growing in South America and was discovered by the Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni in 1987. Through following studies it was found out, that Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than common sugar, and has in actual fact no real side effects. There were some studies about it which affirmed that the steviol, the metabolized steviosid (which is the main component of the Stevia leaves) acts as a mutagen. But if a human would eat the equal amount of Stevia leafs, the rats in the experiments ate, he would eat half his body’s weight in Stevia leafs. In this amount also normal sugar is highly toxic.
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So the studies cannot really be assigned to the human. If you would replace the average daily sugar consumption of a human with Stevia, he would have to eat about 4 grams of it. In this low dosage it wouldn’t do any harm. Additionally the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2006:
“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.”
Another point against the harmfulness of Stevia is, that it has been used for several hundreds of years by the native south Americans and by the Japanese since 1970, and there are no known issues with Stevia until today.
The positive things really overweight the literally nonexistent negative sides of Stevia. So it is said that Stevia has no effect on the insulin balancing process, what makes it perfect for diabetics. The WHO also reports that it also could enhance the glucose tolerance. And in opposition to sugar, it is even good for teeth as it is effectual against caries. Some other studies affirm that Stevia also has side effects on obesity and high blood pressure. So it doesn’t comes out of the blue, that Stevia is known as healing herb by the Indigos for centuries.
In the western hemisphere Stevia is only partially approved in some countries. For example the USA, France, Australia, New Zealand and the Swiss. The EU still has her reservations against Stevia, because of the possibly appearing negative effects, but they will probably approve it as a food additional soon. It is foreseeable that Stevia will become more and more popular in the future as sweetener, but it won’t replace sugar completely.