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Is Stevia a Bad Choice?

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by Nancy Weyrauch Mehlert, MS

Recently we were introduced to two studies[i] about Stevia and its possible negative effect on gut bacteria, glucose intolerance, and diet- induced obesity. In a practice where we always try to educate and inform our patients of the most optimal choices and encourage you to continually work toward a cleaner, healthier, more whole food diet, studies like this can be frustrating.  We all want to shout, “What in the heck IS ok to eat?” and “now what do I use?”.  After all, stevia has been used for centuries around the world and was introduced in the natural health world in the 1980’s as the best alternative to sugar. We have always affirmed this belief.

TWIHW philosophy remains unchanged over the years: we have to choose our battles and pick our shots.  Each individual has to evaluate his or her diet and, if willing, continue improving it. Will any of us ever achieve perfection? Does a perfect diet really exist? Is perfect food even available? We know the answer to all of these is “no”.  In the big picture, we doubt daily stevia use is the single or contributing factor to anyone’s diabetes, obesity, gut issues, or inflammatory process. Perhaps, however, stevia continues to stimulate your desire for sweet things, creating ongoing cravings, and that may be well worth considering.

In 2020, the Cleveland Clinic made their best and worst recommendations for sweeteners[ii] and opened the article with the most important piece of information to consider: sweeteners of every kind stimulate appetite, encourage a sweet tooth, and disturb gut microbiota. These result in disturbed glucose levels. We, too, think some sweeteners are better than others. Processed sugar, corn and fructose syrups, along with artificially made chemical sweeteners, are still far more concerning than stevia or monk fruit. Yet most people who have removed all sweet flavors from their diet for 7-30 days attest to the sudden drop in cravings for them and usually weight loss, increased energy, and focus.

With nutrition and health, looking at the whole picture can be helpful. If you are struggling with a pre-diabetic or diabetic situation, or constantly battling sugar or carbohydrate cravings, or would like to see some improved overall energy and mental focus, consider trying something like the Whole30 diet where every kind of sweet food is removed including all sweeteners and added sugar with the exception of fresh fruit for 30 days.

If you would like to consult with us about your use of stevia or any food in the context of your entire diet and health status, we are available to help you. We will continue to sell a minimally processed, organic stevia in our office.

[i] https://academic.oup.com/femsec/article/96/6/fiaa079/5827635, Downloaded on September 11, 2021, and

https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061248.

[ii] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-best-and-worst-sweeteners-your-dietitians-picks/

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