Is Stevia A Safe Sweetener For People With Diabetes?

A tower made out of sugar cubes

Stevia is a plant-based zero-calorie sweetener derived from a shrub native to North and South America. Studies suggest that it does not contain carbohydrates, meaning it does not cause a spike in the blood sugar level. The FDA in 2008 labeled stevia as “Generally Recognized as Safe”, meaning it is okay for consumption. Then later approved its use in the US. It has a composition of compounds referred to as steviol glycosides. These compounds are said to be about 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose (sugar).

Despite the high levels of sugary taste, stevia in its pure form tends to have a bitter aftertaste. For this reason, other ingredients are added to counteract the bitter taste. In this write-up, find out what stevia is, its benefits, and risks.

Is Stevia Safe for Diabetes?

Studies show that using stevia in relatively small amounts has no adverse effects on people with diabetes. One study done 1986 in Brazil shows that the preparation of the sweetener at an interval of 6 hours in 3 days can improve glucose tolerance. Other ingredients blended with stevia to counteract the bitter aftertaste may contain glucose-raising properties.

For people with diabetes type 2, stevia has been found to lower the glucose levels and trigger a glucagon response. Glucagon is the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugars. The American Diabetes Association says that stevia plant extracts are acceptable for diabetics. Currently, this is used across the globe, with China being the largest exporter.

Glycemic Index (GI) and its Effect on Blood Sugar

Foods are assigned a certain score depending on their effects on blood sugar levels. The reference food is glucose, which is pure, simple sugar with a glycemic index of 100. Any score below 56 is considered a low GI food. Those with a score of 70 are considered to be high. White rice is a good example of high glycemic food.

Stevia is a zero-calorie leaf extract in the daisy family. Because it has zero carbs and has no calories, it has a GI of zero. This means it is a harmless product and does not affect people with diabetes negatively.

Can Stevia Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

Because stevia is a plant extract; it contains vital minerals and vitamins such as magnesium and chromium. Due to the low level of magnesium in diabetics, insulin resistance can set in.  Magnesium present in stevia extracts helps your body in the secretion of insulin and enables it to work better. Chromium helps in normal glucose metabolism. A deficiency in chromium has been linked to impaired glucose tolerance. It is worth noting that minerals and vitamins are only present in the raw stevia plant and not the powdered form.

But the question that begs is; can stevia cure diabetes? This natural alternative to sugar does not cure diabetes but manages it. Diabetics can manage their condition by taking medication as prescribed, indulging in the right diet, and making positive lifestyle changes. Using this as an alternative to sugar can aid in weight loss and help you stabilize your blood sugars. Too much weight is a risk factor for diabetes type 2. Find out how oatmeal can cure diabetes.

Most diabetes sufferers have been seen to have acute blood pressure too. These natural sweeteners according to studies can lower blood pressure. If you are diabetic, why not grow stevia in your yard and add its leaves to your beverages and food.  

man adding sugar to his coffee

The Benefits of Stevia

Research suggests that stevia comes with multiple benefits:

  • Blood sugar control
  • Present antioxidant properties
  • Fullness creating less desire to eat
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Protection of kidney and liver damage
  • It is versatile-can be used in cold and hot beverages or food

The other benefit of stevia’s leaf extracts is that it can be used in baking. However, it is essential to note that it cannot be as a sugar alternative in all types of baking and cooking. This link would tell you about what cereal to eat for diabetics

Can this Sweetener Affect you Negatively?

A lot of studies point to the positive effects of stevia as long as it is consumed in moderation. A Mayo Clinic article highlights the side effects that could come with this product despite its many benefits in diabetes. Those highlighted are mild with a feeling of fullness and nausea. Due to the additives contained in some, certain dangers have been reported. For instance, adding sugar alcohols to stevia can lead to the following gastrointestinal symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Bloating
  • Cramping

Other general side-effects include kidney damage, allergic reactions, hypoglycemia, and endocrine disruption.

Rodent and human cell cultures have in the past been used in studies to demonstrate the gastrointestinal benefits of stevia. Its use has been proven to reduce and limit the symptoms of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.

The FDA recommends a daily intake of at least 4 mg per kg of body weight. When used to flavor beverages and food in its raw form, it would not be considered a danger to your health. If you have diabetes, ensure the additives included in the sweeteners do not cause a spike in blood sugar.

What other illnesses can be Suppressed by Stevia?

Stevia is mostly used by diabetic patients and people suffering from hypertension. Research also shows that people at risk of heart disease can use it.  Stevioside present in the plant extract particularly is said to decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This means it contains heart disease prevention properties. It also has been reported to contain anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

People taking medications should avoid stevia or consult a health provider. This is because the extract can interfere with some medicines. Several factors including hormone-regulating drugs, elevated blood pressure and its medication, steroids, liver disease and its medication, kidney illness and its medication, heart condition and its medication, and cancer medication can increase the risk of using this.

The food you eat and how you consume it can make a huge difference in your blood sugar levels. Limiting added sugars is one way to meet your blood sugar stabilization goals. Fortunately, stevia has been proven to aid in reducing the negative effects of excessive glucose.