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What's New in Nutrition?
Stevia - What is the Real Story?By Lisa Anne Leslie C.C.N.
Several of our customers have recently expressed concerned about stevia extract and its potential health concerns. Hopefully this information will set you at ease.
Stevia has an impeccable safety record as a sweetener. There have been no reports of ill effects in over 1500 years of continuous use by Paraguayans. In Japan over 1000 metric tonnes are now consumed annually in countless products.
The Japanese subjected Stevia to extensive safety testing and found it to be free from health risks before allowing it to enter the market over 20 years ago. "Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on Stevia at one time or another. The results are always negative," writes Dr. Daniel Mowry of the Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences.
So why is such a well-proven, natural, and healthful sweetener not more widely available in America? Why are diet sodas and other low-car foods sweetened with toxic aspartame or saccharin when this harmless natural alternative is available? The unfortunate answer to these questions is that Stevia has been mired in bad politics for many decades.
Since the late 1980's when Stevia entered the US market, the FDA has refused to honor its own laws in denying the plant status as an approved food. Petitions for approval have been submitted by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), Celestial Seasonings, and Lipton Tea Co. and have all been flatly refused by the agency. Contrast these rejections of an undeniably safe product with the controversial FDA approvals granted to the likes of saccharin, an established carcinogen, or aspartame (Nutrasweet), the Monsanto product proven to increase brain tumors and the subject of 75% of all consumer complaints to the FDA.
The only threat Stevia poses is to the billion dollar artificial sweetener industry. Rob McCaleb, founder of the Herb Research Foundation says, "Sweetness is big money. Nobody wants to see something cheap and easy to grow on the market competing with the things they worked so hard to get approved." Currently the FDA is in the awkward position of approving Stevia for sale as a "dietary supplement" while declaring it an unsafe food additive when labeled as a sweetener or used as an ingredient in food products.
Transcending this apparently deliberate suppression, Stevia's popularity has continued to rise. Informed largely by word-of-mouth, Americans have persisted in seeking out Stevia "dietary supplements" for use as non-caloric sweeteners. With enough consumer momentum behind it, Stevia will one day assume its rightful place in our foodways, providing a natural and healthful source of sugar-free sweetness.
EnergyFirst Whey Protein products are sweetened with stevia extract, and are recommended for diabetics and anyone who has high blood sugar.