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Stevia

Discussion in 'Food, Nutrition and Recipes' started by Dennis, Jul 5, 2008.

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  1. Dennis

    Dennis Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    I see that the subject of Stevia has cropped again recently. As some of you who have been with the forum a long time may remember, Stevia is a sweetener that is banned throughout the EU (including the UK). However it is widely used in Japan and South America. In the US it is licenced but with restrictions as to its use.

    The reason that it is banned is because research has shown it to have two rather nasty side-effects. These are
    1) it produces effects in the male reproductive system that could affect fertility
    2) a component part of Stevia, steviol, is genotoxic (i.e. it causes mutations in DNA).

    Unfortunately a website that has been mentioned recently in this forum states "The only allowed sweetener is stevia". Additionally a recent article in the Telegraph mentions Stevia as "the sweetener of choice".

    Just to be absolutely certain that the UK ban is still in force I have checked with the Food Standards Agency and their response states
    "Many sweeteners are not allowed to be imported or sold in the UK. This is because sweeteners and other food additives are tightly regulated within the EU and may only be used once their safety has been rigorously assessed. An example of a sweetener that is not allowed to be imported or sold in the EU is Stevioside, which is also known as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni . This does not have clearance to be marketed in the EU as it is a high intensity sweetener, 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose."

    You may find Stevia advertised for sale - one of our correspondents has recently purchased some via Ebay. In the UK it is not illegal to buy it, but it is illegal to sell it, but please be aware of the possible side-effects if you are tempted to try it. There are many much safer alternatives.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  2. lionrampant

    lionrampant · Well-Known Member

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    Surprisingly the Japs haven't had a lot of trouble with it, but I'm interested to hear what alternatives you'd suggest. :)
     
  3. DiabeticGeek

    DiabeticGeek · Well-Known Member

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    The Stevia issue is not at all clearcut. The claims that it affects male fertility are the result of research done 40 years ago, and more recent attempts to repeat or confirm this work have failed. The claims that it is mutagenic or toxic are controversial. Some relatively recent research has made these claims, but its methodology has been criticized and other studies have found no evidence that Stevioside (the active ingredient) is in any way dangerous.

    If you are interested, a fairly recent review of this is:

    Geuns JM (2003) Stevioside. Phytochemistry 64(5):913-21. [Abstract online]

    There is also some evidence that Stevioside is more than just a sweetener, and that it might actually be helpful in diabetes. At least one research team has found that in rats it reduces insulin resistance and lowers blood glucose. It has been suggested that this might one day become the basis of a new drug for use in type-2 diabetes. This research is:

    Jeppesena, PB; Gregersena, S; Alstrupa, KK & Hermansena, K (2002). Stevioside induces antihyperglycaemic, insulinotropic and glucagonostatic effects in vivo: studies in the diabetic Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats. Phytomedicine 9(1): 9-14. [Abstract online]

    The legal situation is nearly as murky as the safety situation. In the EU its sale is completely banned on health and safety grounds. However, it is quite legal to consume it and to import it for your own use (there are several sites on the Internet where it can be ordered from overseas). Some UK online health sites do sell it marked "not for human consumption". I'm not sure whether that is legal, but if anyone is breaking the law it is the vendor not the customer. In the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand it is legal as a dietary supplement, but not as a food additive. In Japan it is widely used as a food additive and is the most popular artificial sweetener (e.g. if you ever have a diet Coke in Japan, that will be sweetened with Stevia). It is also completely legal and widely used in China, most of the far East, and most of South America.

    So, should you use Stevia? Well, if you do consider it then be aware of the controversy and make up your own mind as to whether you are willing to take the risk. I haven't tried it, but personally I think the risks are minuscule and the benefits possibly significant - so I intend to do so at some stage. However, do read and make up your own mind about this.

    There is quite a good (though unashamedly pro-Stevia) web site at: http://www.stevia.net/.
     
  4. fergus

    fergus Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    Hi DiabeticGeek,

    That's very useful information on stevia. I have to confess that my increasing scepicism about the standard of advice on offer from organisations such as the FSA extends to stevia too.
    It's use appears widespread elsewhere in the world. If countries as litigous as the USA don't have a problem with it, then since it's a perfectly natural herb, I don't see a problem with it. When we think of the alternative chemical sweeteners given licence by the EU and FSA, and the lobbying power behind the sugar producers, I doubt whether stevia has had a fair crack of the whip, frankly.
    I have an insider in the US who sends me sachets of powder and seeds to grow my own. The prohibition applies only to sale, so it's a victimless crime!
    It's certainly very sweet, has no aftertaste that I notice, and has no effect on my blood sugars.

    All the best,

    fergus
     
  5. ally5555

    ally5555 · Well-Known Member

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    Must admit i have completely ignored stevia apart seeing it mentioned on us sites. Have you tried cooking withit fergus ? Does heat change the taste?
     
  6. fergus

    fergus Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    Hi Ally,

    To be honest, I've pretty much completely weaned myself off sweet things, so I rarely use it other than at Xmas for example. I had a very sweet tooth when I was younger, but when I stopped eating sweet foods I soon stopped craving them altogether.
    I did use stevia powder to make a baked cheesecake recently which turned out well though. I think it works well as a sugar alternative in baking.

    All the best,

    fergus
     
  7. ally5555

    ally5555 · Well-Known Member

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    Hi Fergus

    Thanks for that - I think spenda works quite well but I try to encourage people to try and cut out sweet foods too and try not sweeten tea etc but some find that extremely difficult.

    Splenda is useful for special occassions tho.

    I don't have a sweet tooth either !
     
  8. Dennis

    Dennis Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    In raising this thread I was simply trying to act in a responsible manner in pointing out that the sale of Stevia in the UK is illegal and the reasons why it has been banned. I am not qualified to say whether those reasons are valid or not. I also don't believe that the length of time since research was done makes the research any more or less valid. Arsenic was declared to be a poison by the ancient Persians thousands of years ago. The passing of time doesn't make it any less poisonous today.

    If my acting responsibly doesn't please the rebels out there, then tough! As I said in my original posting "In the UK it is not illegal to buy it, but it is illegal to sell it, but please be aware of the possible side-effects if you are tempted to try it."

    My sole concern is that if anyone wants to use it then they should at least do so with the knowledge that there are doubts about the safety of the product.
     
  9. fergus

    fergus Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, Dennis, I'd no intention of stoking insurrection on the stevia issue!
    I know there are places in the UK where it can be bought, so it's always useful to discuss the issues around it at least.
    Well, I'm off on holiday for 2 weeks from tomorrow morning, so no more troublemaking from me for a while.

    Ta ra!

    fergus
     
  10. Dennis

    Dennis Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Fergus,
    Enjoy your holiday - we'll all miss you.
    Where are you off to?
     
  11. fergus

    fergus Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Dennis,

    We're off to Rhodes for a couple of weeks in the sun. Not a moment too soon as it looks like summer has given Scotland a miss again this year. :(

    Al the best everyone,

    fergus
     
  12. Dennis

    Dennis Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Lucky devil. Rhodes is one of my favourite spots, especially the old town and the gorgeous deserted stretches of coast along the south east of the island.
     
  13. DiabeticGeek

    DiabeticGeek · Well-Known Member

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    I agree, it is important that people are aware of these sort of things - so thank you for starting this thread. I just wanted to point out that the safety issues aren't completely clear cut. People should make their own informed decisions about such things.

    I possibly phrased this badly. The point is not that the work was 40 years old, but that in the 40 years since it was done few, if any, people have managed to repeat it. That casts quite a serious doubt upon the original work. In the more sophisticated end of toxicology the time that research was done does make a difference - simply because a lot of the modern molecular techniques weren't available more than a very few years ago. However, this work wasn't very sophisticated - it was a fairly simple trial in rats.

    I completely agree with this. I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert in this area either, but I have read a few of the Stevia research papers - and generally the people who write these (who are the experts) seem to think that the risks are pretty small. I have also read a few of the aspartame research papers, and they worry me a lot more than any Stevia research that I have seen.
     
  14. sparkle73

    sparkle73 · Well-Known Member

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    HI Diabetic Geek,

    I couldn't help noticing your comment on 'aspartame'. Please explain why aspartame concerns you a lot more. :)

    I'm sure alot of you on this forum are aware of my comments regarding this poison aspartame, as i have gone into lengthy discussion on here about it, and im still filling in bits here and there on this forum because i do honestly believe this stuff to be dangerous to your body.

    A lot of my posts on here when i first started talking, (warning) about the dangers of this stuff. I gave my story about my little boy and aspartame. I got attacked on here,when all i was trying to do was potentially make people aware of the dangers.and i really dont think anybody is taking much notice to be honest. I have recently been involved with a petition for a local lady to do with disabled children and when i looked at the e-petitions for 10 Downing street, i noticed there was one to ban all additives and also aspartame. ive heard horrendous stories about this stuff and i just keep finding more and more.

    here's a link to diabetes,aspartame and the pancreas
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... _106027141

    Claire
     
  15. DiabeticGeek

    DiabeticGeek · Well-Known Member

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    There have been a number of studies linking aspartame with brain tumours, leukaemia and other forms of cancer and neurological disorders. These studies aren't necessarily right (some of them have quite peculiar methodologies), but they certainly cast quite serious doubts on its safety. There have been other major studies and enquiries that have concluded that it is safe. However, the really scary thing is that there are allegations of conflicts of interest that have been denied but won't go away (e.g. that the research concluding aspartame is safe is indirectly funded by large corporations that make a lot of money out of aspartame).

    Have you seen the documentary Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World? It will show you that a lot of highly respected people have serious qualms about aspartame. That is why, by comparison, I think the health concerns about Stevia are relatively slight.
     
  16. hanadr

    hanadr · Expert

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    Essential fact about Aspartame
    IT TASTES FOUL!!! there's an awful aftertaste which is ghastly on a sensitive palate
     
  17. Dennis

    Dennis Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    I find it rather odd that the Coca-Cola Company who have always been one of the world's largest consumers of aspartame in the diet versions of their soft drinks, have this year applied to the US FDA for a licence to switch from aspartame to an alternative sweetener.

    Their new choice?

    Stevia!!!

    Frying pan and fire springs to mind.
     
  18. DiabeticGeek

    DiabeticGeek · Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. Coca-Cola have been using Stevia in Japan for many years, and I haven't heard of it causing them any problems. It may be that they think there is a major aspartame scandal just around the corner, and they want to distance themselves from it.
     
  19. wiflib

    wiflib Type 2 (in remission!) · Well-Known Member

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    I reckon it's just what you're used to. I tried stevia last time I was in Canada and found it awful, I much prefer aspartame, but my intake of it since diagnosis is shockingly low!!

    I also hate the taste of sugar and saccharine.

    Wiflib
     
  20. lionrampant

    lionrampant · Well-Known Member

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    Oh come on, you never tasted a spoon of candarel while making a cup of coffee? It was rather nice I found.

    Pity it's poisonous.

    Bit like Whisky I suppose. :eek:
     
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