Fitness
Fact Checked

What are the Potential Benefits of Stevia for Diabetics?

Marlene de Wilde
Marlene de Wilde

Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener that is ideal for diabetics, as it does not affect glucose levels. It is derived from a plant in the chrysanthemum family found in South America and Asia and has been used for many years in countries like Japan and Brazil. An important benefit of stevia for diabetics is that it has been shown to significantly lower and regulate blood sugar levels. For this reason, it is used as a treatment for diabetes in Brazil.

There are artificial sweeteners available as sugar alternatives for diabetics but concern has been raised as to whether these are harmful in some way if consumed in the long term. Although comparatively new to the Western world, stevia has been used for centuries in Latin America, while in Japan it accounts for nearly half of the sugar substitute market. No side effects have been reported by diabetic patients in Asian countries who have been using the stevia leaf to make herbal tea for many years. On the contrary, because of its lowering of blood sugar levels, the advantage of using stevia for diabetics is obvious.

Stevia stimulates the release of insulin and controls the response to glucose.
Stevia stimulates the release of insulin and controls the response to glucose.

In Latin America, stevia is used as a therapy for hyperglycemia, as it stimulates the release of insulin and controls the response to glucose. As such, it is a cheaper alternative to medications. People who have a pre-diabetic condition can replace sugar with this natural sweetener in an effort to stabilize their blood sugar and avoid contracting diabetes. Another medical effect is that it lowers high blood pressure without impacting normal blood pressure levels and so is considered by many to be a healthy alternative to medication.

The stevia plant grows in South America, where it has long been used as a natural sweetener.
The stevia plant grows in South America, where it has long been used as a natural sweetener.

Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar but there are no calories, carbohydrates or fats. It can be used in liquid form, as a tea, as a powdered extract or blend, and in its pure form as leaves, although raw leaves may be infected by bacteria or fungi, so this is not often recommended. The powdered extracts come in two varieties, pure white and green. The sweetening capacity of stevia comes from the complex molecules called steviosides, which are made up of glucose, sophorose and steviol. If the right amounts are used, there is little or no aftertaste.

Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener that does not affect glucose levels.
Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener that does not affect glucose levels.

The use of stevia for diabetics is only one aspect of the potential market in the West, as obesity and hypertension are prevalent medical conditions that can also benefit. Weight loss through a low-carbohydrate or low-calorie diet is recommended for those suffering or might potentially be suffering from diabetes who are also overweight.

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Discussion Comments

anon995625

Stevia does pose a problem in some individuals as indicated in an article published in Arnprior Chronicle-Guide & Weekender (ON). Possible side effects of Stevia may include bloating, nausea, dizziness, muscle pains and numbness. It also can increase the amount of a psychiatric drug lithium in your body. This can increase the toxic effect of lithium. Stevia can produce some very life – threatening allergic reactions that cause shortness of breath, rapid heat beat, wheezing, hives and anaphylactic shock. Pregnant women should avoid stevia, because there have been no studies conducted to confirm that stevia has no effect on a developing fetus.

ninetydegree

@Jester39 - The negative side effects are not widely known...perhaps because there really aren't any?

Stevia is being used worldwide to stabilize blood sugar naturally in diabetic diets. What a concept!

Jester39

I have a couple of friends who have diabetes and they all seem to struggle with their love for sweets. I have never heard any of them mention stevia and its benefits. I didn't know that Japan has been using it for so long in products for diabetics.

Stevia's side effects are not widely known, the only side effect I've read about thus far is a warning to those people who suffer from bowel disorders.

So, I'm passing this info along to my diabetic friends to read and consider trying for themselves.

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    • Stevia stimulates the release of insulin and controls the response to glucose.
      By: Rob Byron
      Stevia stimulates the release of insulin and controls the response to glucose.
    • The stevia plant grows in South America, where it has long been used as a natural sweetener.
      By: Iryna Volina
      The stevia plant grows in South America, where it has long been used as a natural sweetener.
    • Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener that does not affect glucose levels.
      Stevia is a natural herbal sweetener that does not affect glucose levels.