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?
Just curious, but is this the same CSPI that is suing KFC and Starbucks?
I found out the hard way (by eating some Atkins candybars) that anyone with GI problems (IBD, colitus, crohns disease) should AVOID sugar alcohols! I guess it's probably OK if you don't have anything planned for the next day or so.
The good news is, my sister told me about aloe juice and after a few weeks of taking that all my problems were gone, including my normally touchy digestive system issues. It was crazy! I could actually eat onions without suffering. So now whenever I get something with Splenda in it by accident or carelessness, I just make sure I take the aloe.
Three common artificial sweeteners, namely saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame, are now in the public domain, patents long expired. Big Sugar can do nothing to stop them. How could stevia make things any worse for Big Sugar, especially if it has a problem with aftertaste? This is like the way the dairy business got margarine advertisements banned from saying anything about butter.
There is big sugar/food industry, then there is big chemical industry, like Monsanto (NutraSweet), who are in the sweetener biz. Since Splenda is manufactured from sucrose/fructose it is not a "chemical sweetener" per se. It's a big profit-maker for the sugar/food industry.
Stevia is a problem because it is natural and renewable, and cannot be patented like a man-made sweetener. The lack of access keeps the price high, but if it were approved the price would plummet and it would be very competitive. You can't turn your garden corn into fructose, but you can grow stevia and pluck the leaves for direct use.
As far as the taste, there are a few brands that are already perfected to the point of virtually no aftertase.
I had about 10 pieces of Russell Stover. Funny thing was left to go to the pistol range right after I ate them.
Felt a little quesy on the way, and then the rumbling started after I got there.
I was lucky to finish and make my way home before the "problems" started.
I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me later than evening when I remembered the candies. Looked at the ingrediants then looked on the net. Sure enough...
The key is moderation ;-)
Aloe? I'll have to try some of that.
The only warning on any aspartame I have ever seen is "Phenylketonurics: contains phenylalanine." Checking a fairly new box of no-name aspartame sweetener in my kitchen right now, I see that has not changed. Too bad Nutra Sweet got picked on, the other aspartame guys don't care. I've found nothing better for most uncooked recipes. (Not even Splenda, which has an "empty" taste.)
The saccharin warning harks back to a law that if there was any evidence linking the substance to cancer it had to bear such a warning. The dosage fed to the rats required before a higher cancer rate was seen was equivalent to humans drinking a hundred diet sodas daily. Saccharin is great in lemonade.
Acesulfame is commercially used with aspartame to improve the flavor, but I have used it by itself. It will work in aspartame recipes without worrying about minimizing cooking time or losing sweetness.
As for stevia, I'd have to be a hard case before I would bother growing it in a garden to get a non sugar sweetener. It's just too easy to get others.
Actually if you are diabetic you should avoid sugar alcohols as well. It spikes your blood sugar the same as the real stuff does. There are no calories because your body doesn't absorb it (this also causes the laxative effect) but it is close enough to sugar that it causes the same reaction.
I think the problem we are having is similar to the problems in other areas of contention today.
It seems that when anyone puts together a light advocacy piece about something like stevia, it is too easy to assume that claims are being made that stevia is the be-all, and end-all universal answer to human affliction.
As you point out, stevia should be available for those who wish to try it, unless some compelling, scientifically based problem with its use can be demonstrated.
Some folks may find that other sweeteners are less trouble; some may reject an aftertaste (though high grade stevia from Paraguay is normally regarded as a quite pleasant sweetener).
In short, no one advocates stevia (other than those with a vested financial interest more compelling than my single little 18 inch high plant nestled near my leek and green onion plants!), as the only sweetener that should be used.
We operate in a market economy where consumers can compare and decide.
This system breaks down, however, when political might can be flexed to prevent competition from any products.
It is not stevia which is at risk, here. It is the fair play and supposed (and critical) inability to "fix" the marketplace which has elevated capitalism, consumer choice, and competition to a level where Americans enjoy the highest standard of living in the world.
We can lose this if vested interests learn that they can tell you what you are going to eat, what you are allowed to say silently with your hands folded in school, and what you must think.
I had hoped that by injecting the silly parody at the end that a gentle point might be made about those persons who "educate" viewers without any knowledge of subjects at hand whatsoever, and who enforce information embargoes with the powers of entrenched, and ruthless bureaucracies. Often if you make fun of yourself, you can disarm those ready to defend the walls to the death. No joy.
Recently we heard radio reports that holding a cellphone to your head in a thunderstorm increases your chance of being struck by lightning. One can only shake one's head. A bolt of lightning involves millions of volts, with currents in the hundreds of amps. The idea that a cell phone could "increase the conductivity to your skin", is so utterly stupid, so monumentally preposterous, that career electronic technicians like me feel the need for a "pitchforks and torches" moment. It is somewhat like holding up a front page of the Boston globe to stop a charging rhino. "Well... at least it's one more thickness of paper to save me..."
Is the ability to examine fact, weigh options and debate pros and cons to be confined to Freerepublic only, or will we someday watch science break out on network television?
I'll try those sweeteners you recommended. Thanks.
"Sucralose (Splenda) is the newcomer to the artificial sweeteners market. Though it sounds good when advertisements say it is "made from sugar," what they don't tell you is that parts of the natural sugar molecule are replaced with chlorine. In 1998, the FDA granted approval for sucralose to be used in a variety of food products. It is not yet approved for use in most European countries, where it is still under review.
There are very few studies on the safety of sucralose. In comparison to the 2374 studies done on saccharin, sucralose has only 19. There are no studies on long-term use. One small study of diabetic patients showed a statistically significant increase in hemoglobin a1C, a marker of long-term blood glucose levels used to assess the condition of diabetic patients. According to the FDA, "increases in glycosolation in hemoglobin imply lessening of control of diabetes."
Consumers Research magazine said, "Some concern was raised about sucralose being a chlorinated molecule. Some chlorinated molecules serve as the basis for pesticides such as D.D.T., and accumulate in body fat." The manufacturer responded that sucralose passes through the body unabsorbed, but the FDA disagrees. According to their "Final Rule" report, 11% to 27% of sucralose is absorbed in humans, and the rest is excreted unchanged. The manufacturer also claims that the chlorine added to sucralose is similar to the chlorine atom in the salt (NaCl) molecule, but others say sucralose may be more like ingesting tiny amounts of chlorinated pesticides. By the time we find out, consumers may already be harmed. "
BTW, I don't jump all over the first alarmist study I read, knowing full well how biased and agenda-motivated scientific studies often are. But I do take the time to look for both pro & con information, then make my decision using a wide range of data sources.
Don't forget to take that cell phone out of your pocket before you pump gas, LOL!