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Sweet flavour without sugar: impossible dream? [news]

Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of new products coming through – or existing products being reformulated – using the relatively new sweetener, stevia. It’s being used as a sugar substitute in all sorts of things from yoghurt to drinks. Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia has been used for centuries in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten foods and drinks and is widely cultivated in Asia. The fresh leaves are reported to be 15-20 times sweeter than sugar, and extracts from the leaves can be up to 300 times sweeter – meaning you don’t need to use very much at all to get a sweet taste. Unlike sugar, it has hardly any kilojoules, and no impact on blood sugar. Bulk stevia powder is available now in the supermarket for use in cooking, under several brand names. So is this new sweetener the answer to our prayers of unlimited sweet things with no guilt, no sugar ‘addiction’ and no weight gain?