~Stevia benefits and risks~

hoja-de-stevia

My Owner and I heard many times this word “Stevia” nowadays. We heard things like drinks with Stevia, sweets with Stevia, even the disgusting coffee with Stevia. “Is that thing. . .A PLANT??!!!”, my Owner asked with some shock. “Sugar is the best sweet that one can have. WHY THE HELL THE HUMANS WOULD USE THIS?!!”. A long story u_u.

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Alright. As far as I know, Stevia is a sweetener that is naturally low in calories and does not raise your blood sugar level when consumed. Also known as sweetleaf, stevia is made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, a native of South America. When humans consume this plant, they get medicinal properties like:

  • possible positive effect on triglycerides, cholesterol and obesity
  • anti-inflammatory effect
  • may help diarrhea
  • negligible effect on blood glucose (safe for diabetics)
  • used in South America to actually treat diabetes, but few studies to support this claim
  • may lower blood pressure
  • may treat heartburn
  • may improve skin rashes like eczema and eliminate dandruff
  • It also does not increase your cravings for sweet things like consuming white sugar

On the health side, there are conflicting reports on overall safety of stevia. In Paraguay, it is sometimes used as contraception, and there are one or two studies that confirm its contraceptive effects. This source makes a good point that in Paraguay, where people consume stevia leaves on a daily basis, family sizes in the double digits don’t seem to support the fact that stevia could be a contraceptive. It also cites a few studies that found no link.

Many sources say there is no harm in stevia, but large doses in animals has been linked to “interference of carbohydrate absorption, metabolism disruption, reduced sperm production and conversion to mutagenic compounds.”

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Allergic Reactions

In some cases, stevia can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, but this is a relatively rare occurrence. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include dizziness, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, general weakness or having a hard time swallowing shortly after consuming stevia. If any of these symptoms present themselves, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

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Reactions in the Digestive System

Because of its low calorie content, stevia is often used as a natural sugar substitute for those who are looking to lose weight. According to the New Health Guide, however, consuming highly refined stevia can lead to feelings of nausea and a misleading sensation of fullness in some people. Stevia contains steviosides, which may irritate your stomach and cause other problems for the digestive system, including, bloating and a decreased appetite. If you experience these symptoms only mildly, stop taking stevia, and speak with a doctor if the symptoms do not stop shortly.

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Possible Drug Interactions

In some cases, stevia can lead to an adverse reaction if it is consumed with certain medications. Ingesting stevia and lithium is not recommended as stevia can cause your body to retain higher amounts of the drug. As well, if you are taking medication to treat diabetes, stevia is not recommended. Some studies suggest that diabetes medication and stevia, when taken together, can cause hypoglycemia, a drop in blood sugar levels. If you’re taking any of these medications, check with your health care provider before using stevia.

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Other Side-Effects

In some rare cases, stevia can lead to aching and sore muscles or a feeling of numbness and dizziness when standing up or moving. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking stevia immediately, and if the side-effects are prolonged or pronounced, seek emergency medical treatment straight away. As well, stevia consumption is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding.

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