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Is Stevia a Safe Alternative to Sugar?

A question that I have had several patients ask me over the last couple of years is “Is Stevia safe?”

Based on the marketing information released by companies selling and promoting Stevia, the answer is yes.  Considering their findings might be a little biased, I dug a little to find out for myself.

First of all what is stevia? Stevia is a plant extract that is considered to be 50 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. While it’s been around forever and in the U. S. it was initially marketed as a dietary supplement, over the years it has slowly gained popularity as a sweetener.

In short, I found a study that was done on some type-2 diabetes people and it was found that when they were fed stevia, their blood sugar lowered by almost 18%. However I also found information saying that while stevia is much lower in calories than regular sugar, too much may lead to a blood sugar level that is too low. This could of course lead to hypoglycemia which will often lead to overeating.

I also found information about studies done on rats where they were fed massive quantities of stevia and it was shown that there were no mutagenic or carcinogenic effects on the rats. That’s pretty impressive! However other information indicated that in a lab setting, scientists were able to convert it into a known carcinogen.  Now whether that same carcinogenic conversion occurs in the human body is a different story.

While I didn’t find any real significant information to support that stevia has any safety risks like saccharin or aspartame are well known to have, the fact remains that anything in too high of a quantity may have negative effects over time.

The problem I see is that IF people feel that stevia intake has no repercussions, then many of us are unlikely to moderate our consumption of stevia because we feel like we can safely eat more ice cream, cake and soda.

The reality is of course that anything beyond mild to moderate consumption is typically a bad idea. When it comes to anything you eat or drink, moderation is key and over-consumption is not a good idea.

Dr. Daron Stegall is a Keller Chiropractor practicing at Express Chiropractic & Wellness.

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