After overcoming a long legal hurdle race, stevia is increasingly used as a substitute for saccharin and aspartame Stevia (or stevia) is a plant of the Asteraceae family that, in the wild, is still found in some areas of South America, especially in Paraguay. It owes its scientific name, Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, to Moisés Bertoni, the naturalist who described it at the end of the 19th century, and Ovidio Rebaudi, the chemist who carried out its analysis at the beginning of the 20th century. For centuries, the Guarani have been using it as a sweetener for mate and other infusions. It began to be appreciated in other latitudes in the sixties of the 20th century, when, precisely, Bertoni’s daughter and her husband managed to cultivate it. In addition, a decisive fact occurred: it was introduced in Japan (one of the main current consumers) by the Japanese botanist Tetsuya Sumida and, later, it passed to China (which has already become the world’s largest producer). There has been some confusion with the term stevia, since the name of the plant has been extended to the components responsible for its sweetness. Ten of these compounds have been isolated to date: stevioside, rebaudiosides A, B, C, D, E and F, dulcoside A, rubusoside and steviolbioside. All of them are sweet because they are diterpenic glycosides with a steviol group. Currently, stevia extracts containing a minimum of 95 percent of these glycosides are marketed. Of all, the most powerful is rebaudioside A (Reb-A): it is between 250 and 300 times sweeter than refined sugar and provides only about 0.2 calories per gram. All extracts are labeled with the name of stevia.

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