A bioeconomy perspective for natural sweetener Stevia.

Abstract

The "sweet herb" (El Caa-ehe) used by the Guaraní tribes living in the forests of today's eastern Paraguay and southern Brazil, is rapidly emerging as natural sweetener alternative both to sugar and synthetic sweeteners, well beyond Japan where it is widely used since the mid 1970s. Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni contains in its leaves highly sweet steviol glycosides which do not release calories in the human body and do not cause an increase in blood sugar levels. The glycoside most abundant in the leaves, stevioside, has high reactive oxygen species quenching activity originating several health beneficial properties. Rapid advances in green chemistry technology allowing the production of Stevia extracts devoid of liquorice-like after-taste, and their high chemical and physical stability enabling use in baked and beverage food products support large scale uptake of Stevia as natural sweetener. Addressing bioeconomy aspects ranging from production through product formulation, this study identifies the last obstacles to overcome prior to general adoption of S. rebadudiana as health beneficial sweetener.

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