Can You Have Both Sweet and Safe?

Health Alert 204

You hear a lot lately about the problems with sugar. Refined sugar starts a hormonal cascade of events that over time make you fat, tired, diseased and feeling old.

You may have addressed this problem by exchanging sugar for Splenda, Sweet’N Low, or NutraSweet. But there’s mounting evidence that these artificial chemical sweeteners only make matters worse. You may be putting yourself at risk for even more serious health consequences.

You do have another possible solution. You can consider a seldom-used natural way to sweeten foods and beverages. Today I’ll tell you about a very sweet zero-calorie herb. You can avoid those products of the food processing industry’s not-so-sweet science the next time you reach for a sweetener to add to your coffee or tea.

* A Return to Flower Power *

Most of my patients have never heard of the herb Stevia. Yet it’s far from new. The Pre-Columbian Indian culture, the Guarani originally called Stevia Kaa- he-he meaning “sweet herb.” The leaves of the wild Stevia shrub (from the Chrysanthemum family) enhanced the bitter taste of their tea-like beverage called ‘mate.’

Hundreds of years later, Paraguay, Brazil, Korea, and Japan used the sweet leaf and its extracts for sweetening herbal teas and flavoring their foods. So why haven’t you heard much about it in the United States?

Unlike so many chemicals, the FDA has refused to allow the use of this natural herb as a sweetener. To make matters worse, In 1987 FDA inspectors imposed an import prohibition against companies selling Stevia. This is hard to understand considering their approval of the artificial chemical Nutrasweet with its thousands of complaints of over 70 different health problems reported. Although Stevia has a history of use for hundreds of years and has none of the unhealthy drawbacks of sugar and its artificial substitutes, the FDA labeled Stevia an “unsafe food additive” and warned companies to stop using the “illegal” herb.

Fortunately, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), passed despite FDA opposition, allows you to buy Stevia as a dietary supplement. You won’t find it used by food producers but you can use it yourself. You can find it in most health-food stores.

* Solely Self-Service Sweetener *

You can use Stevia in beverages and foods as a natural sweetener. It leaves no bitter after-taste and is 8–10 times sweeter than sugar, so a little sprinkling goes a long way.

In contrast to laboratory-designed chemicals, Stevia appears to have other health benefits. It’s a soluble fiber that nourishes the friendly intestinal bacteria in your system. Plus it …

• Helps control free radical formation

• Supports a healthy liver

• Strengthens your immune system

• Improves regularity

• Cleanses the colon

So enjoy a glass of Stevia-sweetened lemonade or tea. It’s been used by millions of people around the world for hundreds of years.

Al Sears, MD.


Sahelian, Ray and Gates, Donna. “The Stevia Cookbook,” 1999

What is Stevia?