Up until recently, we went along with research from Japan in the 1990’s showing that steviosides, the active ingredient in Stevia, was harmless. Unfortunately, recent studies conducted on laboratory rats showed that in their gut, intestinal bacteria transformed steviosides into something called steviol, which is toxic. The absorption of steviol through the lining of the colon caused a big spike in mutagenic DNA damage.
The next step was to discover if humans have those same bacteria in their guts, and the answer was… we do! Bummer! The only thing those of us who have been consuming Stevia can be consoled with, is that it is not likely we consumed the threshold amount indicated by the study (1.8mg of Stevia per pound of body weight). But it is time to STOP. It is not worth the risk of DNA damage .
IS THERE A LOW-CALORIE SWEETENER THAT IS SAFE?
THANKFULLY THERE IS!
“The natural sweetener erythritol does not appear to carry the adverse effects associated with other low and non-caloric natural and artificial sweeteners and may actually have antioxidant potential.” Michael Gregor, MD
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the following conclusions from a recent laboratory study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands, April 2010 entitled:
Erythritol is a sweet antioxidant
Basically, they reported that “erythritol acts a strong antioxidant with favorable effects on blood vessels.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in small amounts in such foods as melons and peaches. Available since 1994 as a food sweetener, it is without calories and does not raise blood sugar levels or promote tooth decay.
Unlike other sugar alcohols which are used as sweeteners, it is well absorbed from the digestive tract and does not have a laxative side-effect (like Xylitol). It is passed into the urine and eliminated from the body. The purpose of the study was to investigate the antioxidant properties of erythritol.
The antioxidant activity of erythritol was evaluated in biochemical tests and in tests performed in laboratory rats. The biochemical tests showed a dose dependent ability of erythritol to scavenge the hydroxyl radical. Erythritol showed no activity against superoxide free radicals.
Erythritol was then tested in the living system of the rat. Not only was a strong antioxidant effect demonstrated, but also favorable effects to blood vessels were observed.”
So it looks like I am going to have to start the lengthy process of editing my dessert recipes to remove Stevia and replace it with Erythritol!
BAKING with Erythritol
According to the Calorie Control Council, erythritol is “approximately 70 percent as sweet” as sugar. Use a quarter more than the sugar specified in a recipe, to taste.