We have all heard of aspertame and nutrisweet, but what about stevioside? Stevioside, derived from
stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to many South American countries, is a viable alternative to the aforementioned sweeteners on the market. It has been used in some countries for centuries and thanks to Bill Kay, it may be coming to Canadian stores soon.
Kays involvement in developing an extraction process for stevioside occured while the Alberta Research Council (ARC) was working on developing a marker for pumps in the oil field. Apparently, workers noticed the air where they were working was actually sweet, they also noticed the presence of the stevia plant.
Kay began to study the plant and discovered people in other countries had been using it as a sweetner for a long time. As a marketable substance, it is already in production in Japan and its benefits seemed to seriously outweigh the current sweetners available on the North American market. Stevioside is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar, healthy for the body, has no shelf life and is an ideal alternative for diabetics. Kay developed his own process of producing stevioside, a water extraction method, that he claims is seriously affordable.
However, since some people are happy with the current sweeteners available, there is no great push from industry or government to invest the capital required into producing an alternative. Thus, until someone decides to invest in its development, stevioside will not be available for the masses.
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