Stevia has become the darling sweetener in the paleo/keto community; I can see why. Because the body does not metabolise the active compounds of stevia (mainly stevioside and rebaudioside), it has virtually no calories.
A little internet digging reveals some interesting things. First, some websites call it an artificial sweetener. Well that’s pure bunk. How can it be artificial if it is derived from the leaves of a plant. Sugar is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. Does that make sugar artificial. God what nonsense. Second, I came across this site that claims stevia is used in South America as a cheap way to combat…hyperglycaemia (i.e., high blood sugar). It supposedly “stimulates the release of insulin and normalizes the response to glucose, especially in type 2 diabetes.” I have to confess that this article, written by an unknown staff writer, looks rushed and slipshod. There were no links to actual studies.
More digging revealed an actual study on stevia. I won’t bore you with all the details, but it goes some way in explaining why stevia may help with blood glucose levels. The study showed that the “active components of stevia extract, stevioside and steviol, stimulate the ion channel TRPM5…TRPM5 also ensures that the pancreas releases enough insulin, for instance after a meal. Therefore, it helps prevent abnormally high blood sugar levels and the development of type 2 diabetes.”
Now this is interesting, but the study argues multiple things. One, it prevents the development of diabetes. Well, that doesn’t help me. Second, if it stimulates the pancreas into releasing more insulin what does that mean for Type 2 diabetics who are more insulin deficient than insulin resistant. Put another way, what would stimulating the release of more insulin do to my already damaged pancreas? Will it burn out what’s left of my beta cells? Will it just make it easier for my pancreas to release what insulin it has with no ill effects? I need to research more here.
In the meantime, I’m not convinced that stevia works for all diabetics in that sense that it does not raise blood glucose. I have some in the cupboard and use it in small amounts when my gravies are too bitter. My plan tonight is to break my fast with a half teaspoon of stevia and see what that does to my blood sugar. I’ll do a before and half-hour after tonight.
Watch this space.