Steviol glycosides (SGs), as natural sweeteners from Stevia rebaudiana, are currently employed for replacing sugar and its derivatives in several food products and formulations. Such compounds play an essential role in human health. Their usage provides a positive effect on preventing diseases related to sugar consumption, including diabetes mellitus, cancer, and lipid metabolism disorders. The traditional extraction of SGs is performed by means of solvent extraction, which limits their application since the removal of residual solvents is a challenging task requiring further downstream purification steps. In addition, the presence of residual solvents negatively affects the quality of such compounds. Today, food technicians are looking for innovative and improved techniques for the extraction, recovery and purification of SGs. Membrane-based technologies, including microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and nanofiltration, have long been proven to be a valid alternative for efficient extraction and purification of several high added-value molecules from natural sources. Such processes and their possible coupling in integrated membrane systems have been successfully involved in recovery protocols of several compounds, such as metabolites, polyphenols, anthocyanins, natural pigments, proteins, from different sources (e.g., agro-food wastes, plant extracts, fruits, fermentation broths, among others). Herein, we aim to review the current progresses and developments about the extraction of SGs with membrane operations. Our attention has been paid to the latest insights in the field. Furthermore, key process parameters influencing the extraction and purification of SGs are also discussed in detail.
Keywords: Extraction; Stevia rebaudiana; integrated membrane process; steviol glycosides; sweeteners.