Stevia is a sugar substitute that is very low in calories. There is growing interest in the use of stevia to help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from a shrub native to North and South America.
It is an ingredient in many brands of sweetener, including sweet leaf, Truvia , and pure via. As a sweetener, stevia has been growing in popularity in recent years especially among people with diabetes.
Some studies suggest that it does not raise blood sugar levels, making it safe for people with this condition. Stevia contains compounds known as steviol glycosides that are about 300 times sweeter than sugar, however, stevia is so low in calories that it is technically a “ zero-calorie” product.
Although they are sweet, steviol glycosides can have a bitter aftertaste. Due to this, most stevia production contain other ingredients to counteract this.
Is Stevia Safe For People With Diabetes?
Stevia extracts are generally safe for most people in moderate amounts. The United States food drug administration (FDA) categorize steviol glycosides as “generally safe”. As a result, manufactures may add certain high purity steviol glycosides to foods and beverages.
Steviol glycosides are often present in sugar free drinks, jams and dairy products. In a joint statement, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) said that stevia and similar sweeteners can be beneficial for people with diabetes if they use them appropriately and do not compensate by eating extra calories at later meals.
Can Stevia Treat or Cure Diabetes?
Due to the focus on stavia for people with diabetes, many people wonder if it can treat or cure the condition. There is currently no cure for diabetes, but people can manage the condition by making dietary and lifestyle changes and taking medications.
Using stevia in place of sugar in sweetened foods and drinks may help people with diabetes stabilize their blood glucose levels. This replacement may also reduce the number of calories that a person consumes.
Excess weight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and for its complications which include, heart and kidney problems. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. Some research suggests it may lower blood pressure in people with hypertension but not all studies support this.
More Benefits of Stevia
Scientific studies suggest that stevia may offer the following benefits:
- Possible antioxidant properties.
- Blood sugar control, both when fasting and after meals.
- Improved satiety and reduced hunger.
- Less desire to eat extra calories later in the day.
- Lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
- Protection against liver and kidney damage.
Another benefit of stevia is that it is relatively versatile. This sweetener is suitable for use in hot and cold beverages, and may also be suitable for some baking, depending on the particular sweetener product and the recipe. However, it does not caramelize and cannot substitute sugar in all types of cooking and baking.
Risks and Side Effects
Safety studies do not report any negative side effects as long as people consume the sweetener in moderate quantities. The FDA recognizes purified products as being generally safe for most people.
Some stevia products contain additives that may cause the following symptoms in some individuals such as bloating, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and cramping, other digestive issues. However sugar alcohols are otherwise safe for people with diabetes.