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Stevia rebaudiana is a South American plant, the cultivation of which is increasing worldwide due to its high content of sweet compounds. Stevia sweetness is mainly due to steviol glycosides, that are ~250-300 times sweeter than sucrose. Many studies have suggested the benefits of Stevia extract over sugar and artificial sweeteners, but it is still not a very popular sugar substitute. This review summarizes current data on the biological activities of S. rebaudiana extract and its individual glycosides, including anti-hypertensive, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects and improvement of kidney function. Possible side effects and toxicity of Stevia extract are also discussed.
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