What is Stevia?
When it comes to stevia and diabetes, some questions that come up revolve around what stevia is and if it is safe for those with diabetes. The answer to one of those questions may not be as simple as some would hope.
Stevia is a natural, plant-sourced sugar alternative that is a natural sweetener. The Food and Drug Administration approved a highly purified form of stevia, Rebaudioside A (Reb A or rebiana) extract, as a food additive on a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in 2008.
Stevia has been used around the world for many years. It has been used in Japan since the 1970s. Other countries using stevia include Malaysia, Russia, Germany, China, Australia, and Korea. These countries have used stevia as a sweetener or to treat heartburn, diabetes or to help with weight loss. It can be found in leaf, granular and liquid forms.
Is Stevia Safe?
WebMD states that the results from research on stevia in regards to its affects on blood sugar and blood pressure have been mixed. According to Stevia Info, a Brazilian study concluded that stevia may lower blood pressure levels. This can be advantageous to diabetics if further research bears out these findings.
“Diabetes Monitor” explores several positions on stevia, including that of the FDA and the World Health Organization. The conclusion is that there is not enough conclusive evidence either way to determine how safe or unsafe stevia really is.
“Diabetes Magazine” explains the FDA banned the import of stevia for a while because research lab animals had experienced reproductive problems due to its use. The FDA did later approve stevia in the form of rebaudioside A, and this is the only form that currently is approved as a food additive in the United States. People looking to use stevia as a sugar alternative should check food packaging labels to ensure that the proper form of stevia is used in the product.
Not all stevia products are the same. Sun Crystals, for example, contain stevia and cane sugar. Stevita contains stevia and erythritol (a sugar alcohol). Sugar alcohol and cane sugar can affect blood sugar, so it is important to check the ingredients carefully in any stevia product that is used. Other stevia products include SweetLeaf, PureVia, Truvia and Stevia in the Raw.
In regards to stevia and diabetes, there are many sources touting the benefits of stevia for diabetics, but the research is not conclusive at this point to fully support that claim. It is however, one more option for diabetics and others seeking an alternative to sugar.
Size Up Your Sweeteners. Diabetes Magazine. American Diabetes Association. July 2009. https://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/food-thought/size-your-sweetener-options
Stevia Rebaudina News: Stevia and Diabetes. October 27, 2008. https://www.steviainfo.com/?page=news_detail&id=44
Stevia. Diabetes Monitor. January 6, 2010. https://www.diabetesmonitor.com/stevia.htm