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News Europe

German dentists say that the use of stevia instead of sugar does not render oral hygiene redundant. (DTI/Photo ConstanzeK/Shutterstock)
Apr 4, 2012 | News Europe

Stevia might harm oral health, dentists suggest

by Dental Tribune International

FRANKFURT, Germany: Dentists from a local dental association in Germany have warned against the assumption that stevia, a popular sugar substitute, is less harmful to teeth than granulated sugar. They said that stevia’s claim of tooth friendliness has not been proven sufficiently through systematic trials.

Stevia is manufactured by extracting steviol glycosides from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, a native South American shrub. It is up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Despite its high sweetening power, stevia is considered to be harmless to dental health. Thus, it has been advocated as an alternative to conventional synthetic sweeteners and granulated sugar and many producers have started using it in their foods instead, advertising the substance as a calorie-free and tooth-friendly sweetener.

However, the German dentists have now argued that the tooth-friendly properties of stevia have not been proven sufficiently by scientific studies. While usual sugar offers nourishment to caries bacteria, stevia is not a suitable source of nutrition. In this respect, stevia is better for one’s dental flora compared with granulated sugar or honey, they said. At the same time, the association’s dentists warned the public not to neglect oral hygiene. Were the caries-inhibiting properties of stevia to be confirmed scientifically, dental hygiene would still be indispensable.

In 2010, the European Food Safety Authority assessed the safety of stevia as a sweetener for use in foods. From the results of the toxicological test, the members of the panel concluded that stevia sweeteners with a steviol glycoside level of at least 95 per cent are not carcinogenic, genotoxic or associated with any reproductive or developmental toxicity. Stevia was thus classified as safe for use in foods. They recommended an acceptable daily intake of steviol glycosides of 4 mg per day. In December 2011, stevia was officially approved as a food additive in Europe by the European Commission.

Based on its review of information and data submitted by industry, the US Food and Drug Administration concluded that there is no basis for objecting to the use of certain refined stevia preparations in food. In 2009, they determined that Rebiana, a steviol glycoside, can be generally recognised as safe for use in foods and beverages.

According to the International Stevia Council, a global trade association representing the interests of companies involved in the production of stevia products, more than 2,000 stevia-sweetened products were introduced worldwide between 2004 and 2008. They stated that steviol glycosides are permitted for use in a number of countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Global manufacturers such as Coca Cola and Pepsi have already launched stevia-sweetened alternatives to their sugar-based soft drinks on the American market. European producers have introduced such products too. For instance, Andechser, an ecological dairy supplier from Germany, has offered a bio-yoghurt with stevia since 2011.

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