Stevia is a non-caloric natural sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. The active compounds of stevia are steviol glycosides, which have up to 150 times the sweetness of sugar.
Two 2010 review studies found no health concerns with stevia or its sweetening extracts. However, experts have noted a general lack of long-term studies on stevia's use and effects.
Some of stevia’s extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste.
Although stevia appears to be safe in itself, some health experts have suggested that use of stevia is not desirable because it encourages our craving for sweet foods.
Some foods state that they are sugar free or that they are very low in sugar. Often, these foods are sweetened with one or more of the sugar alcohols: sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erythritol, and xylitol.
Sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and erythritol, are manufactured from cornstarch. Xylitol is manufactured from such sources as corn cobs, sugar cane bagasse (stalk residue remaining after sugar extraction), or birch wood waste.
Some of the sugar alcohols are naturally occurring, however, the sugar alcohols used in foods are manufactured, artificial sweeteners.
Although small amounts of sorbitol are present is some fruits, the commercial source of sorbitol is the dextrose (glucose) produced from cornstarch. Mannitol is widespread in nature, being present in the fruit, leaves and other parts of various plants. Strawberries, celery, onions, pumpkins and mushrooms are particularly good sources. However, commercially, mannitol is manufactured from fructose from cornstarch. Maltitol, erythritol, and xylitol are not found in nature; as stated above, they are manufactured from cornstarch or from other sources.
Some people are intolerant to sorbitol and/or mannitol (and perhaps other sugar alcohols). Sugar alcohol intolerance is manifested by abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
A few common products that contain sugar alcohols are as follows:
Oh Yeah!® ONE bars: maltitol