Stevia and diabetes management

Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. This leads to an increased concentration of glucose in the blood known as hyperglycemia, which can lead to nerve and blood vessel damage and increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure.

Diabetes is on the rise across the globe. Worldwide estimates in 2021 indicate 1 in 10 adults were living with diabetes (537 million), an increase of more than 100 million in just four years (2017). If you are living with diabetes or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you know good nutrition is perhaps one of the most important factors in achieving good health. The foods you choose to eat, being physically active, maintaining a normal body weight and taking medications, if recommended, can make a big difference in your daily health.

Managing blood sugar levels with diet and exercise

While there are some risk factors for diabetes that cannot be changed, such as genetics, advancing age and family history, maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity play an important role in managing blood sugar levels.

Fortunately, having diabetes does not mean having to give up all of your favourite foods. You can literally have your cake and eat it too — occasionally and in moderation, of course — so long as you work it into your eating plan.

This is where stevia fits in. so they do not independently affect blood sugar or insulin levels. It helps to cut sugar and calories in many foods and beverages while still allowing you to enjoy indulgent sweet taste.

Research has clearly documented that steviol glycosides have no impact on glucose homeostasis among people with diabetes. A randomised controlled trial among 122 adults over 16 weeks who were given four doses of approximately 330 mg of steviol equivalents (approximately 4-6 packets of table top stevia) over the course of a day compared to placebo had no impact on blood sugar levels. For this study, >97% rebaudioside A was used.

Additionally, the position paper on nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed five randomised controlled trials examining the effects of stevia compared with placebos on metabolic outcomes. The collective takeaway from these studies was a report of minimal to no effects on blood glucose, insulin levels, hypertension and body weight.

Stevia has been shown to significantly reduce postprandial blood glucose with consumption of reduced-sugar and lower-calorie meals in both healthy subjects and diabetics. In one study, subjects with type 2 diabetes reported a reduced postprandial blood glucose and glucagon response after a test meal of stevia versus placebo.

When stevia and aspartame were compared to the effect of sucrose on post-meal blood glucose and insulin levels in 31 obese and lean subjects, blood glucose levels were significantly lower 20 minutes after the stevia preload as well as 30 minutes after lunch. In addition, postprandial insulin levels were also significantly reduced with stevia compared to sucrose (p=0.03).

Stevia is now found in thousands of products around the world from salad dressings to beverages and snack bars and it allows people with diabetes to enjoy sweet taste while managing their calorie intake. Often, stevia is used in combination with nutritive sweeteners like sugar or in foods and beverages that contain other simple carbohydrates, so it is still important to check ingredient labels for total carbohydrate content and overall nutritional information.

You will find stevia in a wide range of food and beverages, including teas, soft drinks, juices, yogurt, soymilk, baked goods, cereal, salad dressings, confections and as a table-top sweetener. Stevia is a great option to use for making recipes diabetes-friendly, too, offering its touch of sweetness and adaptability in baking and cooking.

Other stevia science and research

What is stevia?

Stevia safety

Diet, metabolism and weight management

Stevia taste science: what is taste?

Stevia taste: how sweet is stevia?

2022 Sugar Reduction Life Cycle Assessment


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