We’ve been talking about Stevia quite a bit here at QNet. It’s a great, healthy alternative to sugar that lets you enjoy your sweet treats without being harmful to your health.
So what makes stevia taste so sweet, while at the same time helping us keep our blood sugar level under control?
Researchers at KU Leuven (University of Leuven) in Belgium have recently discovered that stevia stimulates a protein that is essential for our perception of taste and is involved in the release of insulin after a meal. The results of the study, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, create new possibilities for the treatment of diabetes.
Stevia extract is very popular as a non-caloric substitute for sugar. The plant-based sweetener is also believed to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels, although nobody understood why. Dr. Koenraad Philippaert and Prof.Rudi Vennekens from the KU Leuven Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine have now revealed the underlying mechanism.
The Flemish scientists, in collaboration with the Université Catholique de Louvain and the University of Oxford, found that active components of stevia extract, like stevioside, stimulate the ion channel TRPM5. Ion channels are a kind of microscopic pathway through which minuscule charged particles enter and leave cells. These channels are behind many processes in the body.
TRPM5 ensures that the pancreas releases enough insulin, for instance after a meal, to prevent high blood sugar levels and the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes usually develops if the pancreas releases insufficient amounts of insulin, often because of an unhealthy lifestyle.
“If mice consume a high-fat diet for a long period of time they eventually develop diabetes,” Prof. Vennekens explains. “But this is less the case for mice that also receive a daily dose of stevioside: they are protected against diabetes. Stevia did not have this protective effect on mice without TRPM5. This indicates that the protection against abnormally high blood sugar levels and diabetes is due to the stimulation of TRPM5 with stevia components.”
The study opens up perspectives for the development of new treatments to control or possibly prevent diabetes.
“Further research is necessary in order to show if our findings readily apply to humans. All this means that new treatments for diabetes will not be for the very near future.” Says Dr. Philippaert.
If you haven’t yet made the switch from sugar, we highly recommend QNet’s Nutriplus Natose Stevia concentrate, a completely natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia shrub. Stevia is also widely agreed to be safe for diabetics and has no impact on glucose levels in the body- making it the perfect ingredient to experiment with for creating diabetic friendly sweet treats.
Citation: Philippaert, K. et al. Steviol glycosides enhance pancreatic beta-cell function and taste sensation by potentiation of TRPM5 channel activity. Nat. Commun. 8, 14733 doi: 10.1038/ncomms14733 (2017).