Originally Posted by kaplods
I'm not sure science can tell us which sweeteners are healthier than others. Some have a reputation as being more healthy, or less, but if you really dig into the research and can evaluate the strength of the evidence (which requires a background in research methodology) the waters only get muddier and muddier.
Stevia has a reputation for being healthier and safer, but there's been very little research on stevia and some of it is disturbing especially women who are trying to conceive (or not trying to avoid it). In rodents, stevia is linked to reproductive birth defects in the male offspring of female rats and hamsters who were given stevia during pregnancy. Essentially, sons may be born with small genitalia and/or impaired fertility.
Maybe this doesn't happen in humans. Maybe it does.
Xlitol (birch sugar) is also considered "more natural" because it does occur naturally in fruits and tree sap. It's about as processed as white sugar, but contains fewer useable calories. It also can have a laxative effect, though this varies considerably from person to person and by dose.
Agave nectar is a highly processed, high fructose syrup, so it isn't any better than HFCS, despite it's healthier reputation.
Personally, I think the best strategy is to use multiple sweeteners for several reasons. 1. It's likely to minimize the risks of any one. 2. You can usually use less by blending sweeteners. For many sweeteners, combining them makes them sweeter (essentially 2 + 2 = 5). 3. Flavor profile. Some sweeteners just taste better in some uses than others.
The downside is that doing so is initially costlier than using only one.
The controversy about stevia is cooked up by the artificial sweetener companies.
In fact, it has been used for centuries in South America and more recently, for decades in Japan. Many tests have been done -- particularly in Japan -- to test for safety and none bear out the claim that stevia is a toxic substance.
The real culprits are the artificial sweetener companies who recognise the threat that something like stevia presents. They realise that when people learn about stevia and its efficacy as a safe, natural sweetner, things like aspartame get dumped. And so they have extensively lobbeyed organisations and government agencies such as the FDA to block endorsement of stevia as a safe food product. Governments and agencies are susceptible to the lure of pockets being padded.
Hemp (low thc marijuanna) is a popular crop where I live. Hemp producers here have been working hard to have this product put into the production market. It's potential uses are amazing. For instances, hemp can be used to produce a material that is strong enough to be used in the manufacturing of automobiles.
Guess who's fighting the development? Plastics manufacturers. Why? Once people get on board the hemp wagon, this natural, healthy, sustainable, not offensive to the environment product is going to drive plastics companies right out of business.
The lobby of the plastics industry is strong and there is money behind it. Ditto with aspartame, splenda, and all those other kinds of companies.
I realies that sharing one article does not settle the facts. But for the sake of contribution, here is an article that speaks to the safety of stevia.
Stevia Sweetener: Toxic or Tastey
I personally have been using stevia in nutritional ways for years. It does not cause blood sugar spikes as aspartame can do. When I started using stevia, it could only be marketed in Canada as a skin care product. It was available only in health food stores ... in the skin care section. I started using it as a sweetener in my tea at the recommendation of my health care practitioner. Recommendation was not just for sweetening purposes but also because it helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body.
Now that's changed.
Funny thing: all the dangers that are known and proven about aspartame, etc -- it has never faced the obstacles to being sold as a food product such as stevia has. Follow the money, follow the lobby, you get the picture.
The centuries of use of stevia in South America = speaks for itself.