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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Possible Stevia Side Effect - Hypoglycemia

Goodness knows, people have said all kinds of things about Splenda too, however, it's good to know the pitfalls and to choose one's sweetener carefully. Seriously, wish I could do without any sweeteners in my life, but with my sweet tooth, that isn't going to happen.

Stevia could possibly cause hypoglycemic symptoms in some susceptible people, and should not be used by people who need insulin, because Stevia increases insulin sensitivity.

"Researchers in Denmark published a study (in 2000) which demonstrated that the in vitro hypoglycemic actions of stevioside and steviol are a result of their ability to stimulate insulin secretion via a direct action on beta cells. They concluded, "Results indicate that the compounds may have a potential role as antihyperglycemic agents in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus." an excerpt below:

"Because of its blood sugar-lowering and blood pressure-lowering potential, the sweetener Stevia should be evaluated first on an individual basis, before being regularly used by anyone suffering from hypoglycemia, or general glucose tolerance problems. Feedback has been mixed, with stevia being well tolerated by some, but less so (i.e. aggravated low blood sugar symptoms) by others."

Here is a very interesting story:

"I visited a cousin in NC a few days ago and his wife had made a delicious lemon pudding sweetened with Stevia. The iced tea was also sweetened with Stevia. I had never used Stevia but did not hesitate to eat the dessert. I thought it would be safe to do so. I had had a 60 carb meal 30 minutes earlier at a restaurant. Two hours after the dessert my BG was 114, at 5 PM it was 79, at 9 PM it was 62 and at bedtime it was 68. I ate glucose tabs but they did not seem to help. Then at midnight it was 181 and at 3 AM it was 286. I have researched Stevia and I now realize that it slows down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. My insulin was working on schedule but the carbs and glucose tabs were held back by the Stevia. Then at midnight the Stevia was no longer effective and the bolus insulin was out of my system. That resulted in very high BG's.

I will never again use Stevia. I suggest that Type 1's should never use Stevia. A Type 2 who is NOT insulin dependent can use Stevia safely since there is no insulin injected that will cause the low BG's after the meal.

One article contained the following statement:

"In South America, stevia has been used to lower blood sugar in individuals with diabetes. Evidence from laboratory and animal studies seems to show that stevia may help to control blood sugar levels by delaying the absorption of sugar from the intestines. It may also improve insulin sensitivity, which is the ability of the body to use insulin."

This implies, to me, that a delay in absorption of glucose/sugar and a possible increase in insulin sensitivity may be double trouble to someone who has injected/bolused insulin and then eats a meal containing Stevia. Small amounts of Stevia may not be so bad but the dessert and tea combined in my meal contained a significant amount of Stevia. It does seem strange though that the Stevia delayed the absorption of my glucose for eight hours. Maybe my age contributed to that. The delay may be much less for other individuals."

Here is an excerpt from an article in a Canadian newspaper:
"As consumers become ever more health-conscious, they continue to look for lower-calorie beverages and importantly all-natural beverages,” said Stacy Reichert, president of PepsiCo Beverages Canada.

Coca-Cola Canada is planning to introduce beverages made with Truvia in this country, but public-affairs manager Leigha Cotton wouldn't disclose a timeline.

But not everyone is enthusiastic about stevia moving into the mainstream. Although it has a long history of use, there are fears that introducing stevia and its extracts in a wide variety of products could lead to potential health problems.

For instance, some studies have suggested it can lead to male reproductive problems, interfere with metabolism and cause genetic mutations.

“There are a lot of risks and none of the big players seem to care,” said Curtis Eckhert, professor in the environmental health sciences and molecular toxicology department at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dr. Eckhert helped prepare a report last year for the U.S.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest that urged more testing on stevia extracts before it is widely introduced into the population. "

Basically the giant companies that refine stevia to reb A pressured the FDA to approve the highly purified form as a food (sweetener), but the whole plant extract, or formulations with multiple stevia extracts are considered a supplement because they are not GRAS (generally recognized as safe) as a food additive.  If you poke around on the FDA website you can find more info such as:

Is Stevia an 'FDA approved' sweetener?

Is Stevia an 'FDA approved' sweetener?
FDA has not permitted the use of whole-leaf Stevia or crude Stevia extracts because these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive. FDA does not consider their use in food to be GRAS in light of reports in the literature that raise concerns about the use of these substances. Among these concerns are control of blood sugar and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems. Food additives and GRAS affirmation petition or pre-petition submissions for the use of such substances that FDA has received in the past have not contained the data and information necessary to establish the safe use of these substances as ingredients in food.
What refined Stevia preparations have been evaluated by FDA to be used as a sweetener?

What refined Stevia preparations have been evaluated by FDA to be used as a sweetener?
At this writing, FDA has not objected to the use of these highly refined Stevia preparations in food products. Refer to the following Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) notices:
  • Sweet Green Fields
  • Blue California
  • McNeil Nutritionals
  • Cargill
  • Whole Earth Sweetner/Merisant
But, these products are not Stevia. In general, Rebaudioside A differs from Stevia in that it is a highly purified product. Products marketed as "Stevia" are whole leaf Stevia or Stevia extracts of which Rebaudioside A is a component.

The GRAS notification program and contact information is available in FDA’s Web page. 


Tracey R said...

On the other hand, for those of us fighting insulin insensitivity, stevia might just be able to help correct that problem. I've been using stevia in various forms for about a year--daily in my morning protein shake, and much less frequently for the rest of my family--a packet or two here and there in sauces is about it. I encourage my kids to drink water and milk, for the most part, and pop is off-limits unless it's a really special event. I'll have to look into the male gender-bender issue, as it's something I'd not heard of before.

Jennifer said...

Tracey, thanks for that insight. That certainly makes sense to me. What would worry me, too, is the male gender-bender issue, as you mentioned. You use so little, that I'd be inclined to think it is not an issue for your family.

yodasmith said...

I have heard of the male gender-bender thing before, in fact, I think I have read that very same article, but, frankly, I wouldn't worry about it. To my knowledge they were probably referring to a study using rats, and according to Prof. Jan M.C. Geuns ( I assume in reference to humans), "Although steviol showed a weak mutagenic activity in one very sensitive strain of a bacterium, even high concentrations of oral steviol were harmless (up to 2 g/kg body weight)! [and] although stevioside has been used in[Japan] for over 25 years,--stevioside has not had effect on male or female fertility not on development and state of fetuses." It's worth mentioning that again according to Prof. Geuns, "stevia and stevioside have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people during a very long period of time [1500 years in South America and decades in Asia], both by adults and by children without giving the smallest indication of any harmful effects." Of course, since it can lower blood sugar levels, that is something to consider for some diabetics, as has already been mentioned!

I use SweetLeaf stevia, and I love it!

Jennifer said...

Yoda, thanks so much for your insight into this. It did occur to me, of course, that it has been used forever and a day by other peoples.

It's good to weigh the good with the bad and make an informed decision when it comes to the sweetener issue.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm borderline hypoglycemic and I found out today that stevia isn't the best for me. I decided to have stevia instead of sugar in my coffee and about an hour later I started shaking, got a horrible headache and felt nauseated. I vaguely remember having this problem before... It's been 3 hours now and I still feel horrible, but alittle better after eating some protein. So, I won't be using Stevia again in the future.

Jennifer said...

Wow, that's not such a good reaction. Everyone is so different and we really have to do our homework and sometimes it's really a case of choosing our "poison". Awful to say that, but really sugar is also a poison.

yodasmith said...

Those of you who have had reactions, I'm wondering what brand you used--as most have additives and may contain high concentrations of various forms of sugar,... or if you used pure stevia extract unadulterated from the plant, or the stevia leaf itself.

Jenny@ blooming tea said...

I'm so glad to have read your here, thank you so much for this information. I use Splenda, and so I'm doing fine with it. We really have to be careful what sweetener to use. Thanks for your insight.


Amy said...

Thanks for this. I deal with low blood sugar issues, and like Anonymous, I have found that it makes me feel bad. It's great to have this confirmed externally.

I've been using a high-quality organic liquid extract from Now Foods, so purity is not the problem. I think I am just one of those individuals who is affected like that.

Jennifer said...

Interesting, Amy. Natural or not, it's not always good for us. Thanks for your insight into this.