Stevia is a sweet little herb that's derived from the leaves of a plant that's related to sunflowers. It is being touted as the best solution for a sweet tooth by many health gurus. It seems like the perfect alternative to sugar--it's 300 times as sweet, so you only need to use a tiny bit, and it doesn't have calories or carbs, making it perfect for those who are watching their weight. But others warn that there are some pretty hefty health dangers posed by stevia and suggest it should be removed from the market. So who's right and who's wrong? As usual, it's a little bit of both and it depends upon which studies you read. The following are the top 6 health dangers purportedly posed by stevia, and a little background on each:
There are a few mildly unpleasant side effects that have been reported with stevia use, among them are dizziness, muscle pains, numbness, nausea, gas and bloating. However, these symptoms are of short duration.
Pregnant or Nursing Women
Since stevia is relatively new to the US market, more long-term studies are needed before it is recommended for use by pregnant or nursing women. If you have any questions about it, simply refrain from using it and try to find another natural alternative.
Research indicates that stevia lowers blood pressure levels. That's a good thing, right? Yes, unless you have low blood pressure already. If so, then you need to find another sweetener that does not have any effect on blood pressure.
Some studies suggest that stevia lowers your blood sugar, which means that diabetics should be very careful when using it as a sugar substitute. It's not forbidden from use, but experts recommend that you watch your blood sugar levels very closely after consuming it and alter your insulin levels accordingly.
Does It Have a Contraceptive Effect?
Depending upon which study you quote, stevia may have a contraceptive effect. Other studies seem to disprove this. So based on the available research, this one is inconclusive. If you are trying to conceive, you may--just to be on the safe side--refrain from using stevia and find another sugar alternative.
Is It a Carcinogen?
This is possibly the most controversial issue surrounding stevia--does it cause cancer? One study showed that it could be turned into a mutagenic compound, which does cause cancer. Critics of this study have pointed out potential flaws in the process used to derive the compound. Other studies have shown no mutagenic compounds at all.
For many people stevia is the answer to a prayer--a no-carb, no-calorie sugar substitute that allows them to indulge in sweets while remaining on their diets. However, the actual data surrounding its short- and long-term harmful effects is contradictory and confusing. As a consumer, you should know that stevia did finally get FDA approval for use as a food product and it has their designation of being "safe." If you have any questions about it though, consult with your doctor. She can recommend whether or not using stevia is a good idea for you.