Stevia, a popular artificial sweetener found in diet sodas, candy and desserts, is up to 400 times sweeter than refined white sugar. But a new study has found that the no-calorie sweetener might lead to new treatment options for diabetes.
Studies have suggested that stevia, derived from the sweetleaf plant found in South America, can help control blood sugar. This is good news for diabetics with a sweet tooth. A new study by researchers in the United Kingdom and Belgium and published in the journal Nature Communications sheds light on the reason and mechanism by which stevia helps control blood sugar levels.
The answer lies within a protein called TRPM5, which is important for the perception of sweet and bitter tastes.
The study found that stevia activates this protein, which then prompts the pancreas to release insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. The authors suggest that this process could help prevent the development of, or possibly treat, Type 2 diabetes.
To conduct the study, researchers tested the process on mice, which were fed a high-fat diet to stimulate the development of Type 2 diabetes. When stevia was added to their diet, the mice did not develop the disease. However, mice that lacked the TRPM5 protein did develop diabetes.
The research team hopes this study will lead to new treatments or preventive measures for Type 2 diabetes. It is also important to note that stevia, like any sweetener, should be consumed in moderation. The amount used in the study is far greater than what people would consume. Further research will need to see if the experiments on mice translate to humans.