Skip to comments."A rose by any other name, would smell as sw-(don't say it!)"
Posted on 06/25/2006 8:58:23 AM PDT by pickrell
The scientific name is Stevia Rebaudiana, and it is an interesting plant. The Dixie Chicks would have no use for it since it produces no euphoria, confusion, or tendencies towards irrational thought. What it does- ... well, you need to break off a piece of a leaf, put it in your mouth, and chew.
Have you ever been the victim of one of those happy-hour Waffle House comedians who find it clever to unscrew the top on a sugar dispenser?
In its refined form, stevia is over 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is a natural sweetener which has been in heavy use around the world, outside of the United States, for more than a century. For someone who is looking to severely restrict their sugar intake, yet may be uncomfortable with the idea of prolonged use of chemical sweeteners, it usually is discovered by word of mouth. Because it is no accident that the average American is quite familiar with expensive artificial sweeteners, and yet has probably never heard of stevia.
A small leaf included in a pot of tea brings a delightful surprise, in the form of a mild, pleasant sweetness with no aftertaste. (Of course, I have discovered that if I make tea immediately after bass fishing, there sometimes mysteriously occurs a slight aftertaste of minnows. I haven't worked out why, yet, but research is continuing.)
It is NOT a delight to those companies which have serious interests in the multi-billion dollar artificial sweetner industry. In fact, one of the most amazing searches you are likely to ever run on Google, is that of the history of Stevia, and how the sweetener industry, in collusion with the same FDA which thinks the RU486 pill is a reasonable drug for 14 year olds, once prompted FBI raids on companies working to import this product. Amazingly, the product itself was of no interest to the investigators, but rather the warehouse full of books describing the plant- were promptly burned! The reasoning behind that astonishing raid tells the story.
Stevia was the subject of the most in-depth and extensive food product safety studies ever conducted in Japan. At the conclusion of those massive studies, in agreement with other such studies from around the world, Stevia proved to be completely free of any known harmful side effects. Period. Of all sweeteners in use in Japan, Stevia now has captured over 40 percent of the market, and has been used safely for over 4 decades. Paraguay and many South American countries have used it even longer, stretching back past the 19th century, and even longer in rural areas, The highest grades of quality even now come from Paraguay, with the Chinese working feverishly to catch up.
The problem developed when the patent holders of the best known artificial sweeteners in the United States first realized that an entire empire might dissolve like sugar in hot coffee, if Stevia ever managed to gain a foothold in the U.S. market. After poring through the studies completed in the rest of the world, they decided that a new study would have to be made which would confirm that stevia would damnsure not be allowed in the country.
That study was probably the worst put-up job ever conducted with the collusion of the FDA. For several decades any mention of stevia was banned, and any hints of interest in importing the stuff drew immediate and intense attention of the most unwelcome kind.
Finally, Congress had had enough, and passed a law allowing the importation of stevia. But lobbyists for the artificials still managed to get inserted into the legislation perhaps the oddest subclause that anyone had yet seen.. The final draft allowed that the sale of stevia is perfectly ok, but focused prohibitions on how it could be described! Apparently, the threat to the Republic comes not from the plant... but rather from the corrupting knowledge that it tastes sweet.
It was made legal to sell Stevia when it is described as a food suppliment... but it was made illegal to sell stevia when it is described as a sweetener. I know what you are thinking, and I didn't believe it either until I read further.
It was the birth of the thought police. And it was pulled off with scarcely a grin. That a product was certified as perfectly safe when consumed as a food, but became a destroyer of tolerance, love and good citizenship when used in such a way as to displace the sales of it's competitors' products in the sweetener industry, demonstrates the only known side effect... that of leaving your mouth hanging open in disbelief.
The artificial sweetener industry bets that you will never hear of it. And they probably are right-
KNOCK, KNOCK. Rats. Excuse me for a minute, "Yes, what is it?"
"We're looking for Ron Pickrell. We're with the Thought Crime Task Force, CSI/SVU . Are you Mr. Pickrell? We have evidence that he is conspiring to engage in premeditated description of a - "
"What, ME? My Lord, no...uh,... she lives in one of the downstairs apartments, Room 6B. Er...CSI/SVU??"
"Yes. Consumer Sweetner Infractions/ Semantics Voodoo Unit. You say her name is Ron?" Frown.
"Veronica- her friends call her Ronnie..."
"Yes, that would explain it. Thank you for your cooperation, comrade-citizen."
"Don't mention it." -Slam-, -click-. "...to anyone..."
Anyway, Stevia plants are very easy to grow and can be bought at any plant store or nursery, for only a couple dollars, or maybe three if you've missed the Spring sale. They grow well as far north as Ohio, I can testify to personally. Look for them in the herbs or perennials section, or ask the attendant. Their popularity is growing as word leaks out-
KNOCK, KNOCK. Blast, hang on again. "What?"
"I'm Ted Koppel, with Nightlynch. We're doing a hard -hitting expose on blog sites which advocate using the 'S' word-"
"She lives downstairs in Room 6B."
"She? Ron Pickrell's profile states that he is a male, aged-"
"Yes, she lied to the FBI interviewer."
"Ahhh, another devious one..."
-Slam-, -click-. Maybe not forget the deadbolt this time, -clack-. There, that ought to do it.
Where were we? Oh, yes. Stevia has been used all over the Pacific Rim for many decades, and has resulted in markedly lower dental caries (tooth decay), not only from displacing sugar in the diet, but also from an apparent bacterial inhibiting effect of the stevia itself. Often noted is the absence of that tendency of artificial sweeteners to produce cravings for more sweet drinks. Stevia is also conveniently packaged as a refined crystalline powder, for those annoyed that the leaves grow without any volumn markings printed on them, thus making it impossible to relate teaspoons-equivalent-per-leaf.
A great place to start, if I have sparked any curiousity, is to Google "Stevia", and read some of the many interesting articles written over the years, by persons who, unlike me, are actually technically qualified to evaluate such th-
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK. I swear I am going to buy a big, mean, dog or two. "WHAT DO YOU- oh, no...[sigh].."
-Ting!- toothy smile, "Hi! I'm Chris Matthews of Hardbald. I-"
"SHE LIVES-... She lives downstairs in 6B. You'll spot her instantly- little old lady about 4 foot 9, peers at you like the sun is in her eyes, even indoors. Looks like she probably owns flying monkeys..."
"But in the network showprep, Ron Pickrell is supposed to be 5 foot eleven, about 230 pounds-"
"Hey! Two hundred twenty nine and a half, buddy. The scale just is off zero sometimes, especially if I have- er, if she has, that is, a handkerchief in her hand expected some very depressing news after pizza the night before. Kleenex are heavy devils."
"uhhh, OK... but five foot eleven...?"
"She even lied about her height. Pickrell is a world-class liar..."
"Wow. Is that so?"
"No." Blink. Blink. "Anyway, when you get down there you'll find a couple of guys- sunglasses, dark suits, watched too many reruns of "Men In Black." I looked both ways and continued, "She'll be lying to them and indignantly denying stuff, just like when she denied that her petunias and vincas had done extensive damage to my hiking boots-. Anyway, to cleverly insinuate yourself into her good graces, you need to rescue her from those two brutes. Just tell them you were an intern jilted by Barney Frank, and that you're lonely, and know how to show a Democrat a good time...at reasonable rates..."
"Oooh, clever. You think that will work?"
"Trust me on this. They'll have to get up pretty early in the morning to outthink ol' Chris Matthews."
SLAM. CLICK. CLACK. Drag this dresser over here in front of the door, and... that should do it. "Any time before noon, I should guess..."
Now, while I am hastily packing a suitcase, and cancelling my utilities, I should close with a final thought.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, if you use Stevia, thinking that it is a sweetener; your hair will fall out, your testicles will shrink, or some serious side effect might occur.
However... if you use Stevia, thinking that- (need to shift into liberal mode here)- it is a homeopathic herb which will open your inner femininity to inclusiveness and ecological stewardship- then the food product (Not sweetener, never say sweetener) is perfectly safe to use, and legal to sell, AND HAS BEEN CERTIFIED SO, WHEN DESCRIBED IN AN APPROVED MANNER. Full stop. Paragraph.
If you advertise Stevia as a sweetener, you risk actual legal problems. But if you market Stevia as a "food suppliment", you are in like Flynn, or however you spell his name.
If this seems as preposterous to you as Michael Moore, then check it out thoroughly on the net, or in any legal library. (Not Michael Moore doing anything- but rather, just as preposterous as Michael Moore himself.)
Oh, and if while you're there, should, say, Chris Matthews, a couple of betrayed-looking angry bureaucrats, and a short, pompous journalist with a time-share agreement on Donald Trump's hairpiece, ask you about someone named Pickrell, tell them, uh- I know! Tell them that I got on a plane to Iran. That I'll be staying at the Star of David Hotel.
Tell Matthews that once he gets off the plane, he needs to walk up to any group of the many stern-visaged, black-robed airport mullahs there holding the hardwood sticks, who constantly survey the common workers there for any sudden outbreak of natural sweetener advertising, and employ the colloquial and jolly Farsi phrase, "Shalom! I just arrived here. Where is the Star of David Hotel?" Blink, blink?
In the ensuing instant hush, he'll re-discover freedom of the press.
And whether any of them get up before noon...
P.S. Oh, and I almost forgot...
STEVIA IS A SWEETENER!
Now, to run like hell....
Are you absent-mindedly munching on the minnows while waiting for Ol' Roy to bite?
Large doses (30-50 grams) may have a laxative effect.
Avoid anyone you see eating eggs, smoking, and drinking coffee sweetened with it...
I have some but I didn't like it the first time I tried it. I thought it had an after taste. Maybe I need to give it a second chance.
Try washing your hands.
Me too.. Sister introduced me to a few packets and that was my discovery.
I've used Stevia for years now...a quarter of a teaspoon of Stevia takes the place of a full teaspoon of sugar. And in many cases tastes better.
There are a few drawbacks...it is a bit expensive (but less so than say, Splenda) and I have to buy it at the nutty crunchy liberal foods market.
For anyone who must (or wants to) avoid sugar, this is a must to try.
Or better yet, your moustache.
I buy mine at steviasmart.com
Other than a licoricey aftertaste, which varies by brand, and the fact that it chemically cannot replicate sugar's function in baking, it's great stuff.
Stevia, which is about 100 times sweeter than sugar, is obtained from a shrub (yerba dulce) that grow in Brazil and Paraguay. The name of the actual sweet chemical is stevioside. The health-food industry advocates stevia extract as a safe alternative to synthetic sweeteners, like saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. It is said to be widely used in Japan and several other countries. However, just because a substance is natural, does not mean that it is safe.
The U.S. FDA has rejected stevia (or stevioside) for use as a food additive. Likewise, Canada has not approved stevia, and a European Community scientific panel declared that stevia is unacceptable for use in food. Studies found that high dosages fed to rats caused reduced sperm production and an increase in cell proliferation in their testicles, which could cause infertility or other problems. When pregnant hamsters were fed large amounts of a derivative of stevioside called steviol, they had fewer and smaller offspring. In the laboratory, steviol can be converted into a mutagenic compound, which may promote cancer by causing mutations in the cells genetic material (DNA). In addition, very large amounts of stevioside can interfere with the absorption of carbohydrates in animals and disrupt the conversion of food into energy within cells. In sum, small amounts of stevia are probably safe, but it is inappropriate to endorse wide use of this sweetener.
I trust CSPI, where this info came from. Just cause it's natural doesn't mean it's safe. And the vast conspiracy thing makes everyone a crook to be believed. I talked to the chief pharmacist for Great Earth vitamins about sucralose and he feels it is unquetionably safe. 2 cents a pack at wherehouse stores. Tastes like sugar to me.
Although sucralose in unquestionably safe, it does lead to a higher rate of uncorrected misspellings by users.
Ironic that you talk about thought police and then recommend using google. I don't need no stinking google. Ask.com. Just as useful and definitely doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth.
And if you are comfortable with relying on Japan's research, I've got a great drug for a good night's sleep called "thalidomide."
Let me put it this way: Stevia-bashing is the "global warming" of the nutrition community. Other than weight loss miracle cures, there is no other holy grail as sought after as a safe sugar alternative. When the average person consumes about 150 lbs. of sugar a year, do not think there aren't huge sugar and sweetener interests trying to protect their lucrative markets! It's likely the most addictive and toxic legal substance hyumans put in our bodies. A calorie-free sweetener that most people could grow in their back yard is a death knell for them.
BTW, sucralose - Splenda - gives me terrible gastronomic distress and an odd sensation of lightheadedness. I cannot use it, or any sugar alcohol (mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, erythritol, etc.) without feeling awful.
I agree. We are of course a few years too early to begin this debate, but why wait? The vested interests behind the embargo seem to have successfully obscured the fact that an estimated minimum of 10 million Japanese, over the course of 20 years of stevia use, have used the product without a single product-related problem being reported, in probably the largest and most thorough test grouping ever accomplished. That actually equates to some 200 million subject-test-years of data! When added to the additional millions in South America, Israel, Asia, Australia and a number of other "study groups" of satisfied stevia-using countries- I know of no other product that comes even close to the GRAS, or "generally regarded as safe", textbook definition of a food product.
The idea is that certain components of the stevioside, when used in massive doses, caused harmful effects in certain bacteria. Oddly, my penicillin prescription for strep throat a few years back, (probably from not washing my hands after eating my minnows :-)!), has an even more lethal effect on bacteria.
But actual scientific method seems to have been left at the station on this train. This is a contest of raw political power. It was of course coincidence that the FDA official who decided to ban stevia, later accepted a very high paying job with the company having the most to lose if stevia became accepted.
What concerns me more... is that other horrendously deadly food additive which is made up of equal parts of chlorine,(a deadly gas), and sodium, an unstable and equally dangerous metal, and found in increasing numbers of foods. Ban NaCl before it melts the polar ice-caps!
But mentioning that would just rub salt into the wounds of the stevia-bashers.
Sugar alcohol affects me the same way if I eat too much at one sitting. But Splenda? Much better taste than Stevia and I've never heard of or experienced a laxative effect.
Do you use any other natural low-glycemic sweeteners? Lo Haun? Agave Nectar? Brown Rice Syrup?