What do aspartame (nutrasweet), sucralose, and high fructose corn syrup have in common? They all have proven major negative health effects and are approved by regulatory agencies in the US, Canada, and Europe and are currently in widespread use. In the world of nutrition regulation, money talks and real nutrition walks.
There is a sweetener around that you may or may not of heard of and that is stevia. Of all the positions that the FDA, Canadian, and European regulators have taken, the most absurd stance they have taken when it comes to alternative health and supplements may be with stevia.
Stevia is a tropical plant native to South America. Its extract has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar and it is a popular natural alternative sweetener. it is low glycemic and has added benefits in potentially helping to control obesity, enhance glucose tolerance, and reduce blood pressue. You would think this would be a no-brainer as a sugar substitute and have no problem being approved as a natural sweetener everywhere.
This is good stuff and although stevia has been held down for decades by the FDA, the extracts from the leaf of the Stevia plant have been found to be high in antioxidants which prevents DNA damage that leads to cancer. The sweetener has so far been prevented from being approved for use in foods in the United States or Europe but it is currently sold as a supplement and has gained mainstream acceptance as a safe, natural, calorie free sweetener.
The FDA suppressed stevia in its efforts to propel sales of apartame, an artificial chemical sweetener that has never been shown to be safe for human consumption in the most honest of studies.
Without question, the days of the FDA being able to suppress stevia are finally coming to an end, and the reign of aspartame is nearly over. That’s great news for consumers, and bad news for the cancer industry, for once aspartame is replace with stevia, cancer rates will plummet.
A number of studies have suggested that stevia might cause problems with energy metabolism or the reproductive system, and that a component of stevia might transform into a mutagenic compound. But other studies have failed to find health consequences to stevia use, and have even suggested that it might be beneficial. In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded, after a thorough review of recent research on stevia and its related compounds, that stevia does not damage the genes of humans or other animals, and that many of the toxic effects seen in laboratory studies do not occur in living cells. The WHO also noted that stevia has shown some beneficial effects for patients with high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes.
Ingredient companies are gearing up for when the ingredient gets approved in these two large markets. The Malaysian company PureCircle is raising $ 50 million to expand its stevia production threefold over two years, and the U.S. company Blue California is preparing its infrastructure for large-scale production.
Keep an eye for some soft drink companies to use stevia in their diet line in the not to distant future if restrictions are loosened.