Why Stevia?


My friend, coach, and mentor Joe Dillon recently sent out a great newsletter about the many benefits of stevia. I first learned about stevia in 1998 when I was loving his JDD protein powder (www.TheJoeDillonDifference.com). The information below was researched and provide by his team. For years Joe has been warning people about artificial sweeteners and why they are so harmful.

After using Joe’s whey powder with stevia, I knew when we created our smoothies that we wanted to include it in ours. The sweetener we use in our skyr smoothies is stevia, and we only use 100% organic. But you may or may not understand why this distinction is so crucial to your health. So here’s why.

“Aspartame, also known as Equal and NutraSweet, is a very common artificial sweetener you may find in retail protein powders. Aspartame has been proven to cause brain tumors in lab animals. The National Cancer Institute has noted a sharp rise in brain tumors since aspartame became a mainstream alternative to sugar in the 1980’s.

Cancer is not the only health concern linked to artificial sweeteners, nor is aspartame the only artificially produced sugar substitute with a dark side. Along with aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, and acesulfame k (aka: acesulfame potassium) are the other commonly found artificial sweeteners in low calorie yogurts that you need to be aware of.  Consumption of these chemicals has been associated with depression, blindness, headaches, numbness, dizziness, rashes, bloating, and stomach pains, along with up to 92 other serious side effects. In addition to these detrimental effects, artificial sweeteners also make you fat. How is that possible if they have zero calories?

Researchers have found that artificial sweeteners actually change the body’s chemistry so much that it causes obesity. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose, although they may not have any calories or show up on the glycemic index, actually promote cravings for sugary sweets. In animals, Ganesh Halade, PhD, and Gabriel Fernandes, PhD, showed that aspartame (Equal), raised both glucose and insulin levels and encouraged the development of diabetes (Halade and Fernandes 2011).  By interacting with your body’s sense of satisfaction, the chemicals in artificial sweeteners confuse your brain’s natural satiety hormones, and thereby make you crave more sugar and sweet foods, which in turn, contributes to obesity and metabolic disorders. In fact, artificial sweeteners are some of the most fattening, most powerful appetite stimulating foods you can eat. If you are trying to lose weight, it does not make sense to be eating or drinking appetite stimulants. And what kind of fat do these chemicals cause an increase in? Abdominal fat, the most harmful kind of fat of all.

So, why is stevia so different, and why is it the only sweetener we feel you should use?

Stevia is actually a small perennial herb that belongs to the Asteraceae family of the genus Stevia. Its scientific name is Stevia rebaudiana, and it flourishes in Japan, China, Thailand, Paraguay, and Brazil. Although, it is still a fairly new ingredient in the US, stevia has been approved as a sweetener in Japan since the 1970’s, and is now the number one sweetener there, with a market share of over 40%.  And with over 40 years of use, there has not been one report of any unwanted side effects.

The reason stevia is so remarkable is that it is considered a “non-carbohydrate glycoside compound.” What this means is that the plant actually stores these components in the form of inactive glycosides, which can then be activated by hydrolysis.  This causes the sugar part to be broken off. Since these glycosides are 300 times sweeter than sugar, the amount needed for sweetness is minuscule, and the beauty of stevia is that it will not cause a blood sugar spike, and/or trigger the brain to increases cravings.  In fact, it has been shown to actually lower blood sugar and also offers some other healing benefits as well. What sets stevia apart from all other sweeteners, and makes it so powerful and beneficial, is that the stevia plant has many sterols and antioxidant compounds like triterpenes, flavonoids, and tannins, as well as some flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidant phyto-chemicals present. Some of these beneficial flavanoids in stevia are kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin, and isosteviol. You don’t need to know the names of these very complex compounds, but here is why this is no ordinary sweetener.

There are other potential benefits to stevia as well

Lower Blood Sugar and Improves Insulin Sensitivity  

Chlorogenic acid reduces the enzymatic conversion of glycogen to glucose, in addition to decreasing absorption of glucose in the gut. Thus, it helps reduce blood sugar levels, and increases liver concentrations of glucose-6-phosphate and of glycogen. Therefore, stevia does not trigger the same insulin response that sugar and artificial sweeteners do, and it actually improves insulin sensitivity. Avoiding excess elevation of blood sugar and insulin after meals is perhaps the most important dietary measure you can take to reduce your risk for heart disease, cancer, and other age-related disorders.

In a recent study in type II diabetic subjects, stevioside, one of the stevia extracts, reduced after-meal blood glucose levels by an average of 18%. When compared to sugar and also to aspartame (Equal), stevia consumption before meals, resulted in far lower after-meal glucose and insulin levels.  A key finding from this study was that participants eating stevia felt satisfied with fewer calories, and did not eat more food throughout the day to compensate.  Stevia actually suppressed cravings. This is an indication of stable blood sugar and insulin levels.

At the root of many cases of chronically elevated glucose and insulin levels is insulin resistance. In rats fed a fructose-rich diet for four weeks to induce insulin resistance, stevioside lowered high blood glucose levels in a dose-dependent manner and delayed the development of insulin resistance. Studies have evaluated the effects of stevioside on animal models with both type I and type II diabetes. In both instances, elevated blood glucose levels were lowered, and less insulin medication was needed for the same effect. This research clearly demonstrates that stevia has the ability to increase cellular insulin sensitivity and help reverse insulin resistance by slowing down gluconeogenesis (the synthesis of glucose in the liver from non-carbohydrate sources).

Improve Health of the Pancreas 

Due to this ability to promote insulin production, in turn, pancreas health is improved. Studies found that the flavanoid, kaempferol, can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23% – American Journal of Epidemiology.

Reduce Yeast Infections  

By discouraging glucose absorption in the blood, an added benefit is that stevia may also inhibit candidiasis – a yeast infection that flourishes with sugar.

Lower Blood Pressure 

Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels, increase sodium excretion, and increase urine output. Stevia, although this occurs at slightly higher doses than as used as a sweetener, can actually help lower blood pressure.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that oral stevioside taken at doses of 250 mg, three times a day for one year resulted in significant, lasting decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild to moderate hypertension. The stevioside treatment was well-tolerated and no side effects were reported or detected. Moreover, the stevioside treatment group reported significantly higher quality of life scores than the placebo group. Patients in the placebo group also developed left ventricular hypertrophy, an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle often caused by high blood pressure, that the stevioside group did not. Although the effect of stevioside was not better than drugs, it appears comparable, without any of the side effects caused by HBP medications, and nearly everyone taking stevioside had significant lowering of blood pressure. Since stevia extract also decreases oxidized LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and lowers high blood pressure, and glucose levels, (all metabolic risk factors), it has great potential for the treatment of metabolic syndrome.

Antibacterial Properties

Stevia, when used orally, has shown antibacterial properties. This makes it an ideal ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwashes, as it can aid in fighting cavities and gingivitis. It has shown the same properties when used topically, and has been used as an ointment in the treatment of eczema and acne. Being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, stevia prevents the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth, which is attributed to be a causative agent for dental caries and tooth cavities, and certain compounds in stevia are found to actually inhibit caries causing bacteria in the mouth.

Aid in Calcium Formation

Some studies, conducted on chicken eggshells, have shown that chickens who are fed a preparation laced with stevia, lay eggs with significantly tougher shells. This suggests that stevia aids in calcium formation, which would be an ideal side effect particularly for women and children with growing bones.

Additional Aid in Weight Loss  

Although still being researched, it is also possible that an additional benefit of stevia is that due to its special properties, it may interact with the functions of hypothalamus and may aid weight loss by curbing the hunger sensation. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain which controls hunger, thirst and fatigue along with its other functions. So, along with its glucose lowering ability, you get this added benefit when trying to succeed with your weight loss goals.”

In addition, being a herb, stevia contains many vital vitamins and minerals that are absent in artificial sweeteners. Using stevia as our only sweetener, is just one of the many benefits you will find in our skyr smoothies.


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