Sweet news concerning stevia

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

February 27, 2000|By Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon, and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I recently came across a sweetener called stevia. The write-up suggests that this natural product would be a good sugar substitute for diabetics, but that seems too good to be true. What can you tell me about stevia?

A. Stevia comes from a plant native to South America. The compounds it contains give it a sweet flavor prized by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for centuries.

Stevia has been used as a noncaloric sweetener in Japan for 25 years. There it appears in a range of foods, including soft drinks, ice cream, candy and desserts. It is also sold as a table sweetener, for tea and coffee.

Although it is not approved here as a sweetener, it is available as a dietary supplement. Stevia lowers blood sugar and improves glucose tolerance. It might also lower blood pressure.

There is little human research, but animal studies haven't demonstrated any toxic effects on health, growth or fertility. People allergic to ragweed, and pregnant or nursing women should avoid it. A diabetic who tries stevia should monitor blood sugar closely.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail them at their Web site (www. peoplespharmacy.com) on the HealthCentral.com network.

Pub Date: 02/27/00

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