• The Good, The Bad and The Stevia

By now you would have notice the advertising campaigns for the new sugar substitute called Stevia. But what is Stevia exactly, and is it really a safe alternative to sugar?

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a herb plant that is a member of the Chrysanthemum family. There are around 300 species of Stevia grown, but the one used to make the sugar substitute is called Stevia Rebaudiana

What makes this herb unique from the others in its family is the amount of glycosides found in its leaves. The high levels of Stevioside in this particular species is what makes the extract so sweet tasting, and first attracted food scientists to develop a sugar substitute from the leaves.

The plant has had a long history of use as a natural sweetener dating back hundreds of years, and it is widely used in Asia, South America, and parts of Europe, with Japan being one of the largest users of Stevia leaves.

Although the makers of commercial sweeteners push the fact that Stevia is derived from natural sources, there have been some widely reported side effects from its use, and these must always be taken into consideration before deciding to use this as a sugar replacement.

Is Stevia safe?

If you are allergic to ragweed, daises, marigolds or chrysanthemums, you would be advised to steer clear of using Stevia due to a risk of causing anaphylaxis, which is an allergic reaction so some or all of the chemical compound found in the plant.

Stevia side effects

Some allergy sufferers have reported experiencing dizziness, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, and hives. Experiencing these symptoms after consuming Stevia should be treated as a medical emergency, and the worst-case scenario to a severe allergic reaction towards Stevia could result in heart failure.

Those people blessed with a sensitive stomach or digestive disorders may find using Stevia aggravates their condition, and although most people report mild side effects such as bloating and wind (yes, the farting kind of wind), regular use of this sugar substitute could lead to prolonged symptoms.

If you are taking regular medication, then check with your doctor to make sure there will be no interaction between the chemical compounds found in Stevia and your medication.

Research has shown that stevia may raise the levels of lithium retained in your system, so if you are taking lithium please consider the possible side effects before using Stevia. Some reactions can include aches and pains, muscle numbness, dizziness and balance issues that could affect your safety while walking, and increase the risk of falls and stumbles.

Diabetics taking medication should also be made aware that Stevia can interfere with your blood sugar levels causing a rapid drop in blood sugar.

Boring disclaimer warning

This article was written by a Muscle Mayhem staff member. The information on this site is provided in good faith. Consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. All opinions expressed on this site are our own. Always seek professional advice before engaging in any physical activity or diet.