Americans are slowly becoming aware that the white sugar they’ve been eating is a proven human toxin. We are seeing many people in this country plagued with the health conditions of diabetes, hypoglycemia, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, increased arterial plaque, immune suppression, insulin resistance, obesity, and heart disease; much of which can be attributed to this country’s love of sugar. Many Americans, realizing that sugar had an impact on their waistlines, started looking for low calorie sugar substitutes. What they came up with was those pink, blue, and yellow packages that really aren’t any better for you. Sweet and Low is derived from coal tar; Nutra-Sweet is a proven neurotoxin; and Splenda is showing itself to be another deceitful alternative. Jim Turner, Chairman of the Board of the Health Advocacy Group – Citizens for Health describes varying degrees of gastro-intestinal problems resulting from Splenda use. “… from irritation all the way up to serious bleeding ulcers requiring surgery,” says Turner. Other health professionals report cases of cardiac problems, and various allergic reactions. In this environment, a natural sweetener is starting to gain popularity. Stevia, with its extracts having close to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, is starting to garner more attention as a sugar substitute. Stevia is in the sunflower family and is native to subtropical and tropical regions of western North and South America. Its taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. Stevia was discovered by the 16th century Spanish Conquistadors who learned about it from the local Guarani and Mato Grosso Indians who used stevia leaves to sweeten their medicines and teas. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets. Political controversies have limited stevia’s availability in many countries; for example, the United States banned it in the early 1990s unless labeled as a supplement, but in 2008 approved an extract of it as a food additive. While some countries limit or ban its use, Stevia is widely used as a sweetener in Japan, South America, and parts of Asia. Millions of Japanese have been using stevia for over 30 years with no reported or known harmful effects. In addition to its use as a sweetener, studies have shown it may possibly help the treatment of osteoporosis. In a patent application claim, it was claimed that eggshell breakage can be reduced by 75% by adding a small percentage of stevia leaf powder to chicken feed. It has also been suggested that pigs fed stevia extract had twice as much calcium content in their meat, but these claims have been unverified Medical research has also shown possible benefits of stevia in treating obesity and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that stevia improves insulin sensitivity in rats and possibly even promotes additional insulin production, helping to reverse diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Preliminary human studies also suggest that stevia can help reduce hypertension. So if you’re looking for something to sweeten your coffee, let me recommend stevia to you – it’s natural, it doesn’t affect your blood glucose levels, and it may even have a positive effect on your insulin levels.