Alternative to sugar, sweeteners allow to have the sweet taste while remaining low in calories. In France, stevia gained popularity late because it was authorized for consumption by the decree of August 26, 2009, but it has been used for several decades in South America, Japan and China. It is about 100 to 300 times sweeter than regular table sugar, but contains no calories or carbohydrates.
However, an israeli study points to an unexpected effect of stevia. According to research conducted by scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), this natural sweetener could cause intestinal microbial imbalance. The results have just been published in Molecules, one of the leading international peer-reviewed chemistry journals. This microbial imbalance could cause the onset of gastrointestinal health problems.
Indeed, according to this study, stevia could disrupt communications between different bacteria in the gut microbiome. “Through this research, the scientific team found that it inhibits these pathways and does not kill bacteria. This is an early study that indicates more research is needed before the food industry replaces sugar and artificial sweeteners with stevia and its extracts. We have shown that even a natural supplement can actually disrupt bacterial communication.“said lead researcher Dr Karina Golberg, BGU Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering.
“We are not saying that you are prohibited from taking stevia because there is a health implication. However, [ceux] who take stevia should take into account that we can actually harm the microbiome by affecting its communication system“, recalls the researcher.
Previous studies conducted by Ben-Gurion University in 2018 showed that artificial sweeteners likeaspartame were toxic to bacteria in the digestive system. A mechanism potentially responsible for a wide range of health problems ranging from weight gain to diabetes, and even cancer. The next stage of research will be in animals, most likely mice, to see if stevia exhibits the same worrying effects seen in the lab. Market analyst Emergen Research assures us that the global stevia market is expected to reach nearly $ 1.2 billion by 2027.