Stevia – All its benefits and its antidiabetic effect

Stevia – All its benefits and its antidiabetic effect

Sweeteners made from stevia are completely natural, very sweet, low in calories and they help to regulate the blood sugar levels. Therefore, they are quite valuable for those who suffer diabetes or hypoglycemia.

What is stevia?

If there is one sweetener that has become really popular in the last few years, that is stevia. It is a plant (stevia rebaudiana) also known as sweet herb from which we can extract the stevioside, which is used as sweetener. Above all, it is used in the world of fitness to cook fit desserts in order to substitute refined sugar.

Many talk about the harmful effects at a metabolic level that go from hunger or diabetes to breaking the ketosis. However, this is completely false since sweeteners do not make us “exit” the ketosis. Rather, it is the glucose availability in the cells. In other words, the amount of carbohydrates we eat through the diet.

Stevia plant

Moreover, it also contains stevin, a compound that is 150 times sweetener than its sugar content. Other active compounds include around 100 phytonutrients and volatile oils.

Apart from its powerful properties and the fact that it is a non-caloric natural sweetener, stevia has other benefits and medicinal properties for our health

Benefits of stevia

Stevia has an effect that few people know. We are talking about its effect as an analogue for insulin. In fact, recent studies have proven how stevia can control certain aspects from the glucose metabolism. Consequently, it increases the glucose transport to the cells.

One of the first studies about this is the 2002 et al Jeppesen, where they studied the hormonal effects of stevia on rats. In the end, they reported insulinotropic, anti-hyperglycemic and glucagonostatic effects[1].

The same results occur in other studies like Steviol glycosides modulate glucose transport in different cell types . In fact, the researchers literally stated that <strong”the extracts were capable of improving the glucose absorption as efficiently as insulin”.

Said study revealed that this mimetic effect were due to the PI3K/Akt pathway. This is a very important pathway, since it is directly related to the protein synthesis.

Several studies have shown how a whole leaf concentrate from this plant has a regulating effect on the pancreas. Moreover, it helps to regulate the blood sugar levels too. Therefore, stevia can be useful for those who suffer diabetes, hypoglycemia and candidiasis.

Insulin regulation illustration

Benefits for sport

Stevia could help to increase the glucose transport to the muscles in athletes with insulin resistance. Consequently, it would shorten the muscle recovery and increase the glycogen reserves.

In fact, some studies on rats[12] have shown how stevia does not alter the body weight. However, it does lower the glucose, insulin and cholesterol while increasing the adiponectin (adipose tissue hormone that improves the use of fat as energy). Therefore, we could say that it can be an “extra” support for our diet.

Glucose absorption with steviosides

The glucose absorption levels in the cells. Those that were treated with stevia improved their glucose absorption

The importance of this discovery lies in its anti-diabetic effect and its antioxidant properties. Although we have to be careful, since stevia also increases the glucose sensitivity in the adipose cells (fatty tissue cells). In fact, it can increase it up to four times in people with insulin resistance[11]. That is why a sedentary routine will increase our ability to store said sugars.

This shows how physical exercise is one of the biggest factors that make the difference between an efficient metabolism or insulin resistance.

We can achieve light “antidiabetic” effects through the diets (as we have seen with stevia). However, what truly makes the difference to prevent obesity and diabetes is avoiding cell saturation. In other words, we need to avoid saturating the cells with nutrients that are not going to be used later on.

Do you want to buy stevia supplements? Click on the link to access the HSN online store

Other properties of stevia for health:

  • First of all, it lowers a high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Moreover, it supports the digestion, reducing the gas and stomach acidity.
  • It also helps people with obesity to control their weight
  • Finally, it increases the energy levels and mental acuity

Woman holding a scale

In addition, stevia is an effective element to inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria that cause gum diseases and cavities. Therefore, it is an excellent ingredient for toothpaste and mouthwashes. In fact, many people have experienced improvements in their oral health after adding stevia to their toothpaste or to their daily mouthwash.

Moreover, it is quite useful when it comes to healing a series of skin problems. For instance, it also smooths the skin and wrinkles. In addition, it is an effective treatment against acne, sebum, dermatitis and eczema. It can support the wound healing processes without leaving a scar when it is used on cuts and wounds.

If we add it to the shampoo, it can help to treat dandruff and improve the health of our hair. Moreover, it can also help to preserve its natural color.

Stevia sweetener

Stevia is a safe and healthy alternative to tabletop sugar and sweeteners (saccharine, aspartame, acesulfame-k…) without its side effects.

  • It is a natural product, without calories made from herbs with no sugar at all.
  • In fact, you can chew raw stevia leaves, dry them or grind them. You can use it to make an infusion or boil them like a sweetening ingredient or vegetable.
  • Due to its sweetening compounds, you just need a little amount of stevia to achieve the same effect as a higher amount of sugar.
  • It is not addictive or toxic. In fact, it is even safe for children.
  • Moreover, it does not have reflux, unlike other alternatives to conventional sugar.
  • Finally, it is heat stable up to 392 degrees F

Pistachio, pomegranate and citrus ice creams

The advantage of mixing flavors: “The synergy of sweets”

By Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, member of the Board of Advisors from the Global Stevia Institute:

Obesity continues to be a great worry when it comes to health worldwide

The food industry has supported the demand of calorie-free sweet products. A major challenge was to replace the functional benefits of sugar beyond its sweet flavor. That is why baked products with less sugar have a less appealing aspect and texture, for instance.

Sugar-free ice frozen desserts tend to feel different when we eat them. These products do not meet the customer expectations. In fact, they end up believing that health and flavor are completely incompatible terms.

The solution could be combining nutritious sweeteners (caloric) and non-nutritious (non-caloric). Therefore, the result would be foods and drinks with an intermediate calorie content and a more appetizing sweetness and flavor.

A spoonful of sugar

In the last decade, the food industry has worked to find the best flavor profile by mixing two simple sweeteners instead of a whole complex. The synergy between sweeteners can helps consumers, like my patients, to take small steps towards controlling their weight.

For example, the rebaudioside A (Reb A, sweet extract from the stevia plant) produces an excellent synergy with other natural sweeteners. These include fructose and sucrose (tabletop sugar).

The tangible benefits of adding stevia to existing recipes:

Stevia is 300 times sweetener than sugar and it remains stable in several pH levels and extreme temperatures. Therefore, you can cook it, freeze it or bake it. Mixing stevia with natural caloric sweeteners like fructose and sugar results in the same volume, structure, integrity, effect on the mouth, texture and flavor.

All of this without having all the calories thanks to the 100% natural sweetness from stevia. Consequently, this blend can truly make your favorite meals taste good while having less calories.

Products with stevia and sugar

As we can see in the graphic, the amount of products that combine the benefits of stevia and sugar have increased in a 300% during the last three years.

Combining stevia and sugar allows us to develop low sugar products with less calories and 100% natural that still have an excellent flavor. In the end, the consumers do not have to give up flavor when trying to follow a healthy lifestyle.

  • Do low calorie products reduce the obesity?
  • Could it be that 85 calories is the new calorie standard of 340 cm3 soda instead of 140 calories? Maybe pastries could have 50 calories less per portion.

This number will only increase with time, specially if health professionals start making consumers aware of this issue. The manufacturers could be able to reduce the amount of calories without compromising the flavor or consistency of their products, while helping to educate the population. If this were to happen, controlling our weight would be possible.

Contraindications of stevia

Even if stevia is safe for health and it does not have side effects, it is advisable to consult a physician before taking this herb. Right now, the FDA only allows selling stevia as a food supplement and for skincare products.

Bibliography

  1. Jeppesen PB1, Gregersen S, Alstrup KK, Hermansen K. Stevioside induces antihyperglycaemic, insulinotropic and glucagonostatic effects in vivo: studies in the diabetic Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats.
  2. Chang JC, Wu MC, Liu IM, Cheng JT. Increase of insulin sensitivity by stevioside in fructose-rich chow-fed rats. Horm Metab Res. 2005;37:610–616
  3. Kahn BB, Flier JS. Obesity and insulin resistance. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2000;106(4):473–481. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  4. Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010;55(1):37–43. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  5. Brahmachari G, Mandal LC, Roy R, Mondal S, Brahmachari AK. Stevioside and related compounds—molecules of pharmaceutical promise: a critical overview. Archiv der Pharmazie. 2011;344(1):5–19. [PubMed]
  6. Kim I-S, Yang M, Lee O-H, Kang S-N. The antioxidant activity and the bioactive compound content of Stevia rebaudiana water extracts. Food Science and Technology. 2011;44(5):1328–1332.
  7. Yadav SK, Guleria P. Steviol glycosides from stevia: biosynthesis pathway review and their application in foods and medicine. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2012;52(11):988–998. [PubMed]
  8. Ahn M-Y, Katsanakis KD, Bheda F, Pillay TS. Primary and essential role of the adaptor protein APS for recruitment of both c-Cbl and its associated protein CAP in insulin signaling. Journal of Biological Chemistry.2004;279(20):21526–21532. [PubMed]
  9. Ismail WIW, King JA, Anwar K, Pillay TS. Indinavir and nelfinavir inhibit proximal insulin receptor signalling and salicylate abrogates inhibition: potential role of NFκB pathway. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. 2013;9999:1–10. [PubMed]
  10. Adam Z, Khamis S, Ismail A, Hamid M. Ficus deltoidea: a potential alternative medicine for diabetes mellitus. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012;2012:12 pages.632763 [PMC free article]
  11. Stevioside from Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni Increases Insulin Sensitivity in 3T3-L1 AdipocytesNabilatul Hani Mohd-Radzman,1 Wan Iryani Wan Ismail,1 Siti Safura Jaapar,1 Zainah Adam,2 and Aishah Adam1
  12. Stevioside inhibits atherosclerosis by improvinginsulin signaling and antioxidant defense in obese insulin-resistant mice
  13. Global Stevia Institute

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About Sergio Espinar
Sergio Espinar
Sergio Espinar is a sport nutritionist, specialized in fat loss and health in women. Coach, professor and speaker in the HSN Fitness School.
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