Stevia - The loved, left and leads:
Many centuries ago, the Guarani Indians of Paraguay had known the unique advantages of an unassuming little plant, called ka’a he’e, means sweet herb. They use it every day as a sweetener.
In the 15th century, a Spanish botanist, Pedro Jaime Esteve “found” it and named it Stevia. When the Swiss naturalist Dr. Moisés Santiago Bertoni (and Paraguayan chemist Ovid Rebaudi) described and published the first chemical analysis in 1900, they named – Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni.
Later in 1931, two French chemists, M. Bridel and R. Lavielle were successfully isolated the sweet compounds, and convert into a pure white crystalized extract named Stevioside.
Since then Stevia become more widely produced as natural sweetener with no Calories, no Glycemic Index, and no Carbohydrate.
Left and being banned in US:
When the Japanese first approved the use of Stevia in 1970, US crazed for Cyclamate and Saccharin as artificial sweetener, led to the discovery and patented of Aspartame in 1965. The demand was phenomenal, so Stevia as natural and non-patentable sweetener on the market were not welcome. The controversial about the safety of stevia was started, and claimed as dangerous to health!
The denial of Stevia was continued into studies, either many following studies published after it proofed as not valid. In 1991, the FDA refused to approve Stevia as a sweetener/ as an additive in foods, and the sale of Stevia was banned in the United States and consequently in Canada.
Over time towards the mid ‘90s, the US authorities mellowed their stance. Since 1995 Stevia ended up in the world of Natural Products only. The ban on extracts was still in force but the sale of the whole plant was acceptable.
The regained trust:
With the recent hue and cry against Aspartame in the US population, the torchbearers of “harmful” food need to find a way to boost their global image and maintain sales. Coca-Cola developed the purification process of Stevia leaves and patented. This had led to the emergence of further studies and analyses that confirm the safety of Stevia and its purified compounds. After more than 250 researchers and Government Health Organization published the safety and benefit of Stevia, in December 2008, the FDA accepted and authorized Stevia use as a natural sweetener.
World accept Stevia, and become leading in non-sugar Sweetener:
In 2009 France and Canada approved, followed by European Countries in December 2011. Since then the Stevioside and its higher purified Rebaudioside A (Reb-A) became approved and available in almost all other world countries.
Quality of Stevia also has been well developed, which improving of its taste. From Low grade Crude Stevia Extract, improving to Steviol Glycoside and Reb-A (85-99% pure glycoside), as US FDA only accepted more than 95% pure.
Quickly Stevia get acceptance and place in consumer heart, more food and beverage products containing Stevia as their sweetener, and more people also switch using of sugar or other sweeteners into Stevia in their diet. Stevia now lead the non-sugar sweetener.
Future of Stevia:
Since the high purity of Stevia is available, most researchers are working with Stevia REB-A, to emphasis the result and more vivid response. Most of them found promising result, that Stevia REB-A has plenty potential health benefits. So, in my view, the future Stevia extract is not function as sweetener only but also may become a kind of alternative health booster. But to confirm the potential health benefits, it requires more further study.
However, at least we are confident that Stevia is safe to consume and it is an ideal natural alternative to sugar when looking for that extra boost of sweetness.