Science & Technology

A Sweeter, More Environmentally Friendly Alternative to Sugar

Stevia-based sweeteners are natural sweeteners extracted from the stevia plant, known for their high sweetness levels with little to no calories.

New research from the University of Surrey suggests that natural sweeteners derived from stevia can offer the same level of sweetness as sugar while producing as little as 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

A Life Cycle Assessment carried out by researchers on steviol glycosides extracted from stevia revealed that the production of this sweetener has a lower environmental impact in various areas when compared to sugar. The assessment highlighted that the use of stevia could potentially reduce land use and water consumption, while still providing the same level of sweetness as sugar.

Many non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS), like steviol glycosides, can reproduce the taste of sugar, but without the associated health risks, such as tooth decay, obesity, or diabetes. They can do this because they are many times sweeter than sugar. For example, 4g of steviol glycosides provides the sweetness equivalent of 1,000g sugar, because it is perceived to be 250 times sweeter.

Dr. James Suckling, the lead author of the study working in the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability, said: “The use of steviol glycosides and similar natural products could be sweet news for the health of our planet. However, our study readily admits that much more work needs to be done to understand the health impacts of steviol glycosides and other non-nutritive sweeteners when consumed as part of a wider diet.”

Reference: “Environmental life cycle assessment of production of the high intensity sweetener steviol glycosides from Stevia rebaudiana leaf grown in Europe: The SWEET project” by J. Suckling, S. Morse, R. Murphy, S. Astley, J. C. G. Halford, J. A. Harrold, A. Le-Bail, E. Koukouna, H. Musinovic, J. Perret, A. Raben, M. Roe, J. Scholten, C. Scott, C. Stamatis and C. Westbroek, 14 January 2023, The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.
DOI: 10.1007/s11367-022-02127-9

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