Stevia:Natural alternative to artificial sweeteners
Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in sunflower family. Stevia is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a natural sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. The leaves can be eaten fresh, or put in teas and foods. Stevia leaf extract is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar so it is a better alternative to artificial sweeteners such as Saccharin Sodium, Aspertame, Acesuflame Potassium and Sucralose.
Nutrient composition of stevia on dry wt. basis indicates that energy value being 2.7 kcal/g gives it the status of low calorific sweetener due to its intense sweetness in comparison to other available low calories sweeteners e.g. Aspartame (4Kcal/g).
The use of stevia as a low calorie sweetener could be of immense help in restricting the calorie intake in the diet of obese and wherein restricted diets are prescribed such as diabetic persons.
Stevia contains protein ash of crude fiber, which are essential for the maintenance of good health and are comparable to commonly used cereals in India.
Advantage of stevia over other artificial sweeteners:
- Stevia is a herbal product.
- Stevia is stable at high temperature where as artificial sweetener aspartame is unstable at high temperatures.
- Apart from its sweetness, it is nutrient rich, containing substantial amount of protein, crude fibre, calcium, phosphorous, iron, sodium and potassium.
Aspartame has been the subject of public controversy regarding its safety and its approval. Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine surveyed 166 studies of aspartame and found that 74 studies had industry-related funding and 92 were independently funded. It also found that 100% of the industry-funded research attested to aspartame’s safety, whereas 92% (85 of 92) of independently funded research identified a problem with use of aspartame.
Availability & Consumption:
- Stevia is widely used as a sweetener in Japan where it has been available for decades. In Japan about 51% of the sweetener market is stevia based.
- Available as a dietary supplement in Canada.
- Available as a food additive in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Paraguay, France and Maxico.
- Available as either a food additive or dietary supplement in Switzerland and USA.
- Available in Argentina, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
- In India stevia is available in following brands:
Brand Name: GAIA.
Packet of 25 Sachets, MRP – 70/-
Packet of 100 Tablets, MRP – 80/-
Brand Name: Stevialife
Packet of 25 Sachets, MRP – 40/-
Brand Name: bestevia
Packet of 25 Sachets, MRP – 109/-
Packet of 90 Tablets, MRP – 149/-
- In June 2008 the WHO’s Joint Experts Committee on Food Additives has approved, based on long-term studies, an acceptable daily intake of Steviol Glycoside (form of stevia) of upto 4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
- In December 2008 US Food and Drug Administration notified Rebaudiana (purified form stevia) as Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) with respect to the measure of toxicity.
- As per news item in “BUSINESS REVIEW INDIA” of Nov. 11, 2010 “Coca-Cola gets approval from FSSAI to use stevia, a new sweetener” however website of Food Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) does not show any thing about stevia.