(NaturalNews) Extracts from the leaf of the Stevia plant have been found to be high in antioxidants that prevent the DNA damage that leads to cancer, according to a new Indian study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. "These results indicate that Stevia rebaudiana may be useful as a potential source of natural antioxidants," said lead author Srijani Ghanta, of the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata.
This is good news for stevia, the natural sweetener that has been suppressed for decades by the FDA, but which is now about to go mainstream thanks to interest from Coca-Cola and Cargill.
Stevia rebaudiana is a South American shrub that grows in semi-arid areas of Brazil and Paraguay. The leaves of the plant have been used for generations as a sweetener, originally by the Guarani people and more recently throughout South America and Asia. A campaign of intimidation against stevia companies by the FDA has so far prevented the sweetener from being approved for use in foods in the United States or Europe, but it is currently sold as a supplement and has gained mainstream acceptance as a safe, natural, calorie-free sweetener.
The FDA, of course, suppressed stevia as a way to propel the sales of aspartame, the artificial chemical sweetener that was pushed through FDA approval by none other than Donald Rumsfeld. Aspartame has never been shown to be safe for human consumption in any honest studies.
Stevia as a powerful antioxidant
In the research on stevia mentioned here, researchers used two different chemicals (methanol and ethyl acetate) to obtain extracts from the leaves of the stevia plant. These extracts were found to contain a variety of antioxidants including apigenin, kaempferol and quercitrin.
The antioxidant activity of the extracts was tested with a 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assay to determine how much extract would be needed to remove half of the free radicals from a solution. For methanol extract, 47.66 micrograms per milliliter extract were needed, while only 9.26 micrograms per milliliter were needed of ethyl acetate extract. When tested against hydroxide radicals, the amount of ethyl acetate needed dropped to 3.08 micrograms per milliliter.
The researchers then tested the extracts' ability to protect DNA strands against damage by hydroxide radicals. It only took 0.1 milligrams per liter of ethyl acetate extract to inhibit DNA strand damage. DNA damage has been linked to a variety of diseases, especially cancer, reproductive problems and developmental defects. Halting DNA damage is also a key to longevity.
The recent research may add a boost to anticipated efforts to secure FDA approval for stevia as a food additive in the United States. Stevia extract has 300 times the sweetness of sugar, and it mixes easily into foods or beverages. It causes no significant increase in blood sugar levels, making it safe for diabetics. While many stevia extracts have a slightly bitter aftertaste reminiscent of licorice, a number of manufacturers claim to have figured out how to eliminate this.
Already sold as a sweetener in a variety of countries including Brazil, Canada, China and Japan, stevia has not yet been approved for use in the United States or the European Union. Although stevia had been used for decades without any reports of health problems, the FDA labeled it an "unsafe food additive" in 1991 and restricted its use to dietary supplements. It also placed restrictions on the importation of stevia, even going so far as to demand that a recipe book publisher destroy its books that mentioned stevia in recipes.
The FDA's conspiracy to marginalize stevia
The FDA says that "toxicological information on stevia is inadequate to demonstrate its safety." Yet the regulation of stevia as unsafe was a break with FDA policy, which normally grants generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status to any natural substance used since 1958 or earlier with no reports of negative effects. The 1991 decision came in response to an anonymous petition! In other words, someone wrote the FDA and wanted stevia banned (guess who?) and the FDA obliged.
A number of studies have suggested that stevia might cause problems with energy metabolism or the reproductive system, and that a component of stevia might transform into a mutagenic compound. But other studies have failed to find health consequences to stevia use, and have even suggested that it might be beneficial. In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded, after a thorough review of recent research on stevia and its related compounds, that stevia does not damage the genes of humans or other animals, and that many of the toxic effects seen in laboratory studies do not occur in living cells. The WHO also noted that stevia has shown some beneficial effects for patients with high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes.
Even the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which supports more research into stevia before allowing its use as a food additive, says that there is no risk to the sweetener in small doses.
"If you use stevia sparingly (once or twice a day in cup of tea, for example), it isn't a great threat to you," the CSPI web site says. "But if stevia were marketed widely and used in diet sodas, it would be consumed by millions of people. And that might pose a public health threat."
Here at NaturalNews, we disagree. Stevia is safely consumed by hundreds of millions of people around the world, with absolutely no adverse health effects. It's as safe as drinking tea. And compared to the dangers of aspartame, Sucralose, saccharin, and other chemical sweeteners, stevia is by far the better choice.
Under mandate from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Agency has recently begun a safety assessment and scientific evaluation of stevia. Meanwhile, the FDA has said that it expects to receive a petition for the sweetener's use in food and beverages any day.
The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill have teamed up to begin marketing a stevia-derived sweetener called Rebiana, and hope to gain approval for the product in both the United States and Europe. With its usual approach to intellectual property, Coca-Cola has already filed 24 U.S. patent ingredients for stevia.
Ingredient companies are gearing up for when the ingredient gets approved in these two large markets. The Malaysian company PureCircle is raising $50 million to expand its stevia production threefold over two years, and the U.S. company Blue California is preparing its infrastructure for large-scale production.
Without question, the days of the FDA being able to suppress stevia are finally coming to an end, and the reign of aspartame is nearly over. That's great news for consumers, and bad news for the cancer industry, for once aspartame is replace with stevia, cancer rates will plummet.
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