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The threat of diabetes and the escalating number of its sufferers’ in this country intensifies the search for an alternative sweetener. Consumption of an alternative sweetener is considered to be a permanent sugar replacement which consequently regulates the proportion of sweetness consumed from food and the sum of diabetics in the country.

According to statistics from National Health and Morbidity Survey, it is estimated that 3,4 million Malaysians suffer from diabetes in 2010. Stevia, a sub-tropical herb originating from South America is recently discovered to be one of the sweetener alternative.

Stevia has no noticeable impact to the blood glucose hence it is used as a sweetener in diets for monitoring carbohydrates. It is used as a sweetening substitute in food production and its uses are recognized by international organizations. Its usage in Malaysia is also spreading widely particularly due to the rise in sugar prices in the world trade market.

Stevia can be a great substitute for sugar what with the government encouraging less sugar consumption by disposing the subsidy for the commodity recently. Japan uses stevia as 50 to 60 percent of its total sweetener and it is used in most of its food products. The extract is 300 to 400 times sweeter than the extract taken from sugar canes.

Malaysia which fully imports brown sugar from India should figure out a way to minimize sugar purchases from abroad and instead focus on developing a local stevia industry. With this method, not only do we lessen our reliance on sugar from abroad, we also provide a new source economy for our smallholders.

With Stevia, Malaysians have the alternative to sugar especially since its usage costs over RM5 billion each year. BERNAMA