Why do we use stevia.

Brittany A. Roston - May 5, 2020, 2:09 pm CDT

A popular sweetener called stevia has been linked to potential improvements in a common condition called fatty liver disease, according to a new study. The research comes from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where experts evaluated the effects of sugar alternatives on liver health. Based on the results, a clinical trial that further evaluates the effects is now underway.

Sugar has been linked to a number of health problems ranging from type-2 diabetes to the development of certain types of cancers. As well, excessive sugar consumption may drive the development of obesity and spur the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is a liver condition that doesn’t result from driving alcohol.

For these reasons, many people turn to sugar alternatives of both the synthetic and natural varieties, the latter of which includes stevia, a sweetener made from plants. The new study looks into what kind of effects these sweeteners may have on liver health including their potential for reducing signs of liver disease. 

The study involved a preclinical model used to test stevia extract and sucralose, two common sweeteners often used in desserts and sweet drinks. When compared to sugar, the researchers found that stevia improved the markers associated with fatty liver disease and lowered glucose levels. 

The makers included, among other things, the amount of fat in the liver and fibrosis. These positive effects may have been due to changes in gut bacteria and decreases in cellular stress, according to the study lead Rohit Kohli, MBBS, MS. Additional research is necessary, however, which is where the clinical trial comes in.


Stevia is an intensely sweet-tasting, zero-calorie plant extract that’s gained interest as a replacement for sugar. (1) It’s spiked in popularity in recent years, thanks to its reputation as being a more “natural” sweetener compared with common lab-made artificial sweeteners (it comes from a leaf extract). Stevia is now an ingredient in 14,500 foods and beverages worldwide, according to the PureCircle Stevia Institute. (2) You’ll find the sweetener widely available under many brand names in the store for use at home, including Stevia in the Raw, PureVia, SweetLeaf, Pyure, Wholesome!, and Splenda Naturals, which now makes its own version of Stevia.

What Is Stevia Exactly, and How Is the Sweetener Made?

Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is a plant native to South America. (3) People there have been consuming the leaves as a source of sweetness for hundreds of years, according to an article published in May 2015 in the journal Nutrition Today. (4) It became popular as a sweetener in Japan in the 1970s, but it hadn’t been a leading sweetener in the United States until a decade ago. Today, the extract is widely popular as a zero-calorie sugar alternative. Most notably, stevia is very potent; it’s 200 to 350 times sweeter than sugar. (3)


What Is Stevia Exactly, and How Is the Sweetener Made?

Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is a plant native to South America. (3) People there have been consuming the leaves as a source of sweetness for hundreds of years, according to an article published in May 2015 in the journal Nutrition Today. (4) It became popular as a sweetener in Japan in the 1970s, but it hadn’t been a leading sweetener in the United States until a decade ago. Today, the extract is widely popular as a zero-calorie sugar alternative. Most notably, stevia is very potent; it’s 200 to 350 times sweeter than sugar. (3)

Because stevia is added to thousands of products, reading the ingredient label will tell you if stevia is included. Still, it does go by many names, which can sometimes make pinpointing its presence tricky. Here are the ones to look for, according to PureCircle:

Stevia

High-purity stevia

Stevia extract

Stevia leaf extract

Steviol glycosides

Steviol glycosides (E960)

Rebiana

Rebaudioside A (Reb A)

Stevioside

A Closer Look at How Stevia Is Made

Unlike artificial sweeteners, which are made in a lab, stevia does come from plant leaves. But it needs to be processed before it gets to your table or in your food — it’s not likely you’re eating the leaf itself. According to Truvia, a brand of stevia that runs the website Stevia.com, the leaves are first harvested, dried, and steeped in hot water. (5) The liquid is then filtered and spun to make an extract from the intensely sweet components of the leaf called steviol glycosides. It’s then blended with any number of additives, like dextrose or maltodextrin, to cut the intense sweetness so that it can be easily incorporated into foods.

Now, here are the nutrition stats for stevia (per 1 g packet): (7)

Calories: 0 

Protein: 0 g

Fat: 0 g

Carbs: 1 g

Fiber: 0 g

Clearly, stevia and sugar are very different, particularly because stevia adds nothing to your daily calorie totals. Other sugar substitutes (aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) are also almost completely free of calories.

Stay Safe and stay healthy, eat the right products and know what you are putting in your system.

Written by Brittany A. Roston