Stevia is a natural sweetener that is derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It has become a popular alternative to sugar due to its zero-calorie content and its ability to sweeten food and beverages without causing a spike in blood sugar levels. However, there have been concerns raised about the impact of stevia on gut health. In this article, we will examine the evidence to determine whether stevia is bad for gut health.
The gut microbiome, which is composed of trillions of microorganisms, plays a crucial role in our overall health. It is responsible for maintaining the intestinal barrier function, regulating immune function, and producing essential nutrients. A disruption in the gut microbiome can lead to various health issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and even mental health disorders.
There have been some concerns that stevia may negatively affect gut health. One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that high doses of stevioside, a component of stevia, had a negative impact on the gut microbiota of rats. The researchers observed a decrease in the diversity and abundance of gut bacteria, which could have negative effects on gut health.
Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that stevioside may have a prebiotic effect in the gut. Prebiotics are compounds that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The researchers observed an increase in the abundance of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are two types of beneficial bacteria, in rats that were fed stevioside.
However, it is worth noting that these studies were conducted on animals and the results may not be directly applicable to humans. Furthermore, the doses of stevioside used in these studies were much higher than what is typically consumed by humans.
A study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that consumption of stevia did not have any negative effects on gut health in humans. The researchers observed no changes in gut microbiota diversity, gut inflammation, or gut permeability in healthy adults who consumed stevia for 3 months.
Additionally, a review article published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that stevia was safe for human consumption and did not have any negative effects on gut health. The authors noted that several clinical trials have demonstrated the safety of stevia and its potential health benefits.
In conclusion, the evidence on the impact of stevia on gut health is mixed. While some animal studies have suggested that high doses of stevioside may have a negative impact on gut microbiota diversity and abundance, human studies have not found any negative effects on gut health. In fact, some studies have suggested that stevia may have a prebiotic effect and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. It is important to note that the doses of stevioside used in animal studies were much higher than what is typically consumed by humans, and the safety of consuming large amounts of stevia has not been fully established. As with any food or supplement, it is important to consume stevia in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
- Sánchez-Tapia M, Aguilar-Salinas CA, Ortiz-Ávila O, et al. Stevia: a comprehensive review of the biological effects, molecular mechanisms, and clinical implications. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2017;13(6):618-627.
- Jeong JH, Jeong HR, Jo YH, et al. Stevioside from Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni increases insulin sensitivity in 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Nutrition Research and Practice. 2012;6(6):493-499.