Wednesday, July 30, 2008 by: Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, Natural News Editor
Extracts from the leaf of the Stevia plant have been found to be high in antioxidants that prevent the DNA damage that leads to cancer, according to a new Indian study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. "These results indicate that Stevia rebaudiana may be useful as a potential source of natural antioxidants," said lead author Srijani Ghanta, of the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata.
This is good news for stevia, the natural sweetener that has been suppressed for decades by the FDA, but which is now about to go mainstream thanks to interest from Coca-Cola and Cargill.
Stevia rebaudiana is a South American shrub that grows in semi-arid areas of Brazil and Paraguay. The leaves of the plant have been used for generations as a sweetener, originally by the Guarani people and more recently throughout South America and Asia. A campaign of intimidation against stevia companies by the FDA has so far prevented the sweetener from being approved for use in foods in the United States or Europe, but it is currently sold as a supplement and has gained mainstream acceptance as a safe, natural, calorie-free sweetener.
The FDA, of course, suppressed stevia as a way to propel the sales of aspartame, the artificial chemical sweetener that was pushed through FDA approval by none other than Donald Rumsfeld. Aspartame has never been shown to be safe for human consumption in any honest studies.
Stevia as a powerful antioxidant
In the research on stevia mentioned here, researchers used two different chemicals (methanol and ethyl acetate) to obtain extracts from the leaves of the stevia plant. These extracts were found to contain a variety of antioxidants including apigenin, kaempferol and quercitrin.
The antioxidant activity of the extracts was tested with a 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assay to determine how much extract would be needed to remove half of the free radicals from a solution. For methanol extract, 47.66 micrograms per milliliter extract were needed, while only 9.26 micrograms per milliliter were needed of ethyl acetate extract. When tested against hydroxide radicals, the amount of ethyl acetate needed dropped to 3.08 micrograms per milliliter.
The researchers then tested the extracts' ability to protect DNA strands against damage by hydroxide radicals. It only took 0.1 milligrams per liter of ethyl acetate extract to inhibit DNA strand damage. DNA damage has been linked to a variety of diseases, especially cancer, reproductive problems and developmental defects. Halting DNA damage is also a key to longevity.
The recent research may add a boost to anticipated efforts to secure FDA approval for stevia as a food additive in the United States. Stevia extract has 300 times the sweetness of sugar, and it mixes easily into foods or beverages. It causes no significant increase in blood sugar levels, making it safe for diabetics. While many stevia extracts have a slightly bitter aftertaste reminiscent of licorice, a number of manufacturers claim to have figured out how to eliminate this.