Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stevia, the Anti-Diabetic Sweetener: Extract from the Leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Exhibit Anti-Diabetic Effects in Animal Model

Image 1: Stevia rebaudiana foliage
(photo by Ethel Aardvark)
The health-conscious consumer, you, as a SuppVersity reader, are, you will probably have heard of the natural sweetener stevia, which -despite its various advantages over its artificial counterparts- still has not made it to the mass market. While higher costs, certainly are the main culprit here, another factor could be the unfamiliar, for some commercially available products metallic taste. But hey, didn't people initially complain about the taste of aspartame and natrium-cyclamate, as well? And now, the very same people drink one bottle of diet coke after the other?

Well, if not being as toxic as it's artificial counter parts didn't convince people, yet, maybe the findings of a recent study from India will.

On a side note: don't you think it is kind of telling that studies on "alternative" treatments for diabetes never appear to come from the home countries and continents of Big Pharma?

Misra et al. (Misra. 2011) investigated the effect of two different dosages of a medium-polar (polarity determines solubility, with identical polarity of solvent = high solubility) leaf extract of S. rebaudiana at 200 and 400 mg/kg respectively on diabetic (alloxan induced) rats and found:
Medium-polar leaf extract of S. rebaudiana (200 and 400 mg/kg) produced a delayed but significant (P < 0.01) decrease in the blood glucose level, without producing condition of hypoglycemia after treatment, together with lesser loss in the body weight as compared with standard positive control drug glibenclamide.
Sweet and healthy, but not marketable? Well, the real problem is that the lack of financial interest the big beverage and food producers have to replace tried and proven artificial sweeteners, their customers got used (and sometimes addicted) to, with a sugar substitute, the taste of which could potentially harm their sales. Add to that the reluctance of the central organs of the European Union to finally approve "sweetleaves", as stevia is sometimes referred to, as well, for human consumption. Over here in Europe producers and vendors try to circumvent this problem by labeling their stevia products as "cosmetics" and selling them "solely for topical application". Coca Cola, on the other hand, would certainly have a hard time selling a new stevia-based Coca Cola Light as a cosmetic or heaven forbid bath water, which renders the development of a respective product simply unprofitable (let alone the possibility that costumers won't like its taste).

This being said, it is not even sure, whether the same product that would render your future "Stevi-Coke" (I should patent that name ;-) sweet and tasty will also induce the afore-mentioned revitalizing effects on your pancreatic beta-cells. In the end, consumer taste will probably require the extracts to be processed in order to get rid of any annoying flavors (and associated substances) and whether or not what "remains" will still be superior to sulfonylurea drugs such as glibenclamide in ameliorating hyperglycemia is certainly questionable.