(REUTERS) — The meteoric rise of a natural, healthy alternative to sugar – a holy grail for the food industry – might just be a little too good to be true.

In two years stevia, a plant used for centuries by Paraguay’s Guarani Indians, has shot to prominence in products by Coca-Cola, Danone and Merisant.

Encouraged by distrust of artificial sweeteners and demand for natural products, they have turned to extract of stevia, which is up to 300 times sweeter than traditional beet or cane sugar.

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