|Image 1: Nature vs. Pharma. Leavs and seeds vs. chemicals - guess who will win!|
A pros pos harmful: As it turns out, stevia could in fact be pretty harmful - yet not for my or your physiological health, but certainly for the financial health of the big pharma companies. After all, scientists from the Departments of Pharmacology at the Bangladesh Agricultural University and the Faculty of Medicine at the Kagawa University in Japan have recently been able to show that Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, in combination with Fenugreek aka Methi (Trigonella foenum-graecum), exhibits similarly potent hypoglycemic effects in Streptozotocin treated rats (the reference model for type II diabetes) as Amaryl(R), a commonly used diabetes drug based on the active ingredient Glimepiride (Rafiq. 2011). It thusly stands to reason that big pharma has a vested interest in delaying or even preventing the admission of stevia as an allowable food additive. Think about it: Who would buy all the Amaryls, Metformins & Co if Coca Cola decided to put stevia instead of aspartame into their soft-drinks and - all of a sudden - all those pre-diabetic soft-drink junkies would not develop full-blown type II diabetes, anymore? Ah... I am digressing again. Let's get back to the facts.
For their study Kazi Rafiq and his (I hope that "Kazi" is a male first name ;-) colleagues had collected fresh stevia and methi (=fenugreek) leaves and seeds and prepared them according to the following procedure:
Fresh Stevia leaves that were collected from the garden were oven dried first and then dried leaves were grinded with Grinder machine. Then 1g dried leaves samples were mixed with 10ml distilled water and were allowed to stay for whole night. Everyday fresh extract were prepared by using these techniques. Water extract of methi was made from 100g fresh seed sample by grinding with Grinder machine, and mixed with 2000 ml distilled water. Then the water extract was lyophilized in Central Laboratory, BAU. Finally the herbal drug was collected as powder form by Freeze drying in Central Laboratory, BAU.The scientists then injected their 30 of their 36 Long Evans rats with Streptozotocin (STZ) to induce insulin resistance (again, STZ-treaded rodents are the most commonly used model of type II diabetes). After two weeks of STZ injection the (then) diabetic rats were divided into 5 groups:
- Group-B: diabetic control (STZ).
- Group-C: STZ + aqueous extract of stevia leaves @ 100 mg/kg,
- Group-D: STZ + aqueous extract of methi leaves @ 500 mg/kg,
- Group-E: STZ + combination of aqueous extract of stevia and methi leaves @ 500 mg/kg
- Group-F: Amaryl @ 800µg/kg
|Figure 1: Blood glucose levels (in mg/dl) in response to oral glucose tolerance test in normal and diabetic (STZ) rats after 6 weeks on a combination of stevia and fengreek extracts or the anti-diabetes drug Amaryl - left; change in area under the respective curve (AUC) relative to normal control - right (data adapted from Rafiq. 2011)|
|Figure 2: Elevations in blood sugar levels (compared to healthy control) after STZ treatment and consecutive administration of stevia, fenugreek, a combination of both or Amaryl (data calculated based on Rafiq. 2011)|
these findingslend pharmacological support to the suggested folkloric and ethnomedical user of these plants in managing and /or controlling of diabetes mellitus in rural communities of Bangladesh.While the use of small amounts of stevia to sweeten your beverages and / or food will probably not have the same profound effects on your blood glucose levels as the combination of what would amount to a ~6g equivalent of leaf and seed extracts from stevia and fenugreek used in this study, I would assume that those dubious"hair-care products" still constitutes the most healthy sugar-alternative on the European market - so do your pancreas, ahh.. I mean hair, a favor and get yourself some stevia ;-)