Claims about a Herb to reduce Nicotine addiction
WHAT IS THE TRENDING NEWS STORY
An article appeared online on February 5, 2017 stating that a recent German study showed that stevia can be of great help in the avoidance of alcohol and cigarettes. This plant is a member of the chrysanthemum family and is native to Paraguay. Stevia inhibits the cravings and the signals the brain sends. Therefore if you are struggling to give up smoking, you should start consuming a few drops of Stevia daily.
The article in question states that the leaves of the stevia plant, as well as liquid drops made from the plant, can be used to help stop nicotine cravings in smokers. The author claims that other properties of the stevia plant include being beneficial against hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, as well as helping to tighten the skin and treat acne and dermatitis. It is also claimed that the plant helps people avoid alcohol.
WHY THE STORY HAS MISINFORMATION
The article mentions that a German study has shown that stevia helps to reduce nicotine cravings by inhibiting the signals the brain sends. It is assumed they mean that the stevia blocks the nicotine receptors in the brain and this reduces the cravings for the chemical. Although nicotine receptors blocking is known to be caused by medications such as varenicline and bupropion, which are prescription medications used to help aid with smoking cessation, there are no studies found providing proof or credibility to the statements made about stevia reducing nicotine cravings.
The stevia plant contains steviol glycosides (rebaudioside A and stevioside), which are used as sweeteners. If food ingredients such as sweeteners are 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS), they do not require FDA approval as a food additive. Based on its review of information and data submitted by industry in GRAS notices submitted to FDA, FDA has not questioned the GRAS status of certain high-purity steviol glycosides for use in food. These high-purity steviol glycosides may be lawfully marketed and added to food products sold in the United States. However, and this is a very important distinction, stevia leaf and crude stevia extracts (which are suggested as helping with nicotine cravings) are not considered GRAS and do not have FDA approval for use in food, let alone as a treatment for smoking cessation. The European Union (EU) finally approved the use of stevia in food and drinks in November 2011, and advertising instantly started referring to the ‘green nature' of the new sweetener.
So, even though stevia is relatively safe to use as a sweetening agent, there is no indication made anywhere that it can help people to quit smoking. Therefore, the claim made about a German study proving otherwise is not true. In fact, there are many articles where steviol glycosides and smoking or nicotine are mentioned, but they are unrelated topics. There are also no studies to show that the plant can help individuals quit using alcohol.
A correlation can be found between nicotine intake and glucose levels in that nicotine impairs the function of insulin which results in uncontrolled glucose levels in the body. This affects people with normal glucose level, but the effect is markedly elevated in diabetic patients. Whether the idea that stevia can help reduce nicotine cravings comes from this fact or not is unknown. The thought process may have been that if nicotine affects glucose, then maybe using a natural product for glucose control can affect nicotine cravings. This is purely speculative, but mentioned to try and give an idea of where the story may have come from since there's no other explanation.
As for the other claims made in the article regarding the use of stevia for certain other chronic conditions, there are studies that address these aspects. One such study demonstrates that stevia contains zero calories, and it can therefore be used safely enough as an alternative sweetener to sugar. The reasoning from this, therefore, is that using stevia as a replacement for sugar will help diabetic patients get better control of their glucose levels. Not only that, but replacing sugar will also result in decreased energy consumption which aids with weight loss. Weight loss reduces the amount of adipose tissue (fat) around the large blood vessels and organs, such as the heart and kidneys, and this can help reduce high blood pressure. In an indirect way then, stevia can be beneficial in patients diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, the article fails to go into this detail to help it be a credible source of medical information.
Interestingly enough, a Chinese study did demonstrate that 250mg of stevioside given three times a day actually does reduce blood pressure, comparable to antihypertensive medications.The limitation here though is that the antihypertensive mechanism of stevia could not be determined by the researchers. Hypotheses include stevia working on the calcium-channel blockers of the heart or that it could have an effect on prostaglandin activity, but there is no definitive evidence to prove these theories.