How sweet is Stevia? The measurement of sweetness is a technical matter which is defined precisely. Dried stevia leaves are 30 to 40 times as sweet as sucrose. When the steviosides (a certain class of compounds) are extracted from stevia leaves and then isolated and purified, the result can be 250 to 300 times as sweet as sucrose. One should not jump to the conclusion that stevia is "equal" to a certain amount of sugar. Its want to design recipes using stevia, you may need to run a few experiments to get the right quantities. Also, stevia contains of many phytonutrients not found in sugar: chromium, manganese, selenium, silicon, iron, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamine, Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and zinc. The body may be able to assimilate these trace nutrients more easily in their stevia form that from other sources.
What are the concerns of Health Canada? Along with about 20 other regulatory agencies, Health Canada is taking a very cautious stance, In order to properly test stevia, pure sources are needed and reproducible experiments must be done. When a product is the result of extraction from a natural plant, the risk of co-extraction of contaminants, variability of plant species, and weed infestation can result in irreproducible toxicity studies. If something is extracted from a weed and then highly concentrated, the result could be very dangerous.
What are some of the current research? The anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties of stevia are being explored, for use in shampoos and oral surgery. Blood sugar control using stevia may help in diabetes, hypoglycemia, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder. Stevia has been used in South America to treat hypoglycemia, gingivitis (bleeding gums) and candida.
Why buy organic? Whispering Hills Vineyard Corporation is the only producer of certified organic stevia in Canada. Growing plants in the protected environment of a greenhouse is costly but it makes Whispering Hills the darling of Health Canada.