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Dr. Magryta: Regarding Stevia

Stevia, or sweet leaf, is a sweet-tasting herb that is commonly used as a non-nutritive sweetener in commercial food and beverage products.

The plant can be found in the southern US all the way down to South America. The leaf is 40 times sweeter than sucrose, table sugar.

Stevia can be converted to a derivative, sterol glycoside, which is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. A teaspoon of stevia is equivalent to a cup of sugar in sweetness. It has negligible effects on blood sugar making it an excellent choice for diabetics to avoid hyperglycemic events.

Stevia has been used in Japan for more than  30 years with no evidence of human health hazard. It continues to gain in popularity in the US.

Stevia can be grown in your backyard garden. We grow it in our yard and it is easy to do.

As a non-nutritive sweetener, it is my favorite. All of the others — including saccharin, aspartame and sucralose — have potential health hazards and so we never use them.  They are known to disrupt the intestinal micro biome, causing a shift in metabolism toward a storage weight -gain phenotype [how genetic and environmental influences create an organism’s physical appearance and behavior].

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

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