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New Sugar Substitute Is Calorie-Free

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RALEIGH — Indulging in rich desserts and sweets is a dream come true except for all the calories.For others, too much sugar can be dangerous to their health.

Now there is a powerful, new sugar substitute. It is calorie-free, but has its drawbacks.

Stevia is a powder which is 300 times sweeter than sugar.It comes from a small, green plant in South America.

Stevia has been used for centuries in other countries, but is just starting to gain popularity in the United States.

Some diabetics and people with hypoglycemia use it because it appears to help regulate blood sugar. Others like it because it is sweet, but does not have any calories.

You will not find Stevia on the sugar shelf of you grocery store.It is sold at most natural food stores as a supplement because it is not FDA-approved as a food additive.

There have not been enough studies done in the U.S. to prove that it is safe.

"Since it's been used for so many centuries in South America and it's used extensively in japan, why wouldn't it be safe? But we need more scientific information before the FDA puts its approval -- it's stamp of approval on it," says Sally Ullman, a registered dietitian at WakeMed.

Stevia costs about three times the price of sugar, but is stronger, so you less is needed.Some people we talked to like it because you can bake with it.

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