Diabetes and Stevia
Stevia is a particular plant found in South America. Commonly used as an alternative to sugar and other sweeteners, natives of the continent have used stevia for many years. Stevia has been used to treat high blood pressure, heartburn, in the prevention of pregnancy and in the treatment of diabetes. Up until 2008, stevia had only been available as a dietary supplement in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration, at that time, permitted stevia to be known as a sweetener, recognizing it as a safe product for consumer consumption. The FDA’s approval of stevia only applies to the form of stevia known as rebaudioside A.
Diabetes is a chronic disease where a person’s blood sugar (glucose) is unusually high. Insulin is a particular hormone produced by the body that controls the levels of glucose in the blood. Diabetes can be caused by low amounts of insulin in the blood, or when the body is resisting insulin. There are three types of the condition: Type 1, which usually occurs in childhood or early adulthood. This type of diabetes occurs when the body is not making the needed amount of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most well-known form of the disease, occurring mainly in adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes is essentially insulin resistance, and is often accompanied by other diseases and obesity. Gestational diabetes is when there is elevated blood sugar present in a woman who is pregnant. Because diabetics have to keep control of their glucose levels, as high levels of glucose in the blood can cause many problems, many physicians and nutritionists have recommended alternatives, and stevia has become a popular one.
As with all sugar and sugar alternatives, diabetics should be cautious when consuming stevia. The University of Maryland noted that sugar substitutes often become an integral part in a diabetic’s diet. Diabetics should limit their blood glucose levels as various sugars can increase those levels in the blood. Stevia has become a popular substitute, as it is not absorbed by the digestive system, therefore not adding calories or affecting sugar levels in the blood. Stevia then becomes a primary way for the diabetic to consume a beverage or food that needs some flavor. Despite the plant-based aspects that stevia is composed of, researchers have noted that some diabetics may be concerned with alternatives like it. Stevia has been recognized as safe, and studies have shown that it does not have many side effects.
Stevia typically comes in many forms such as whole leaves, extracts and in packages. Although lower blood glucose levels are recommended for diabetics, many forms of stevia can cause other issues for a diabetic that is already medications to minimize the effects of sugar in the bloodstream. Diabetics will find that they can use stevia in foods such as hot chocolate, banana bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, and pies, with liquid stevia extracts, and many companies offer stevia in a plethora of flavors that range from apricot to vanilla for added enjoyment and sweetness.