Summary Extracts of leaves from the plant Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni have been used in the traditional treatment of diabetes in Paraguay and Brazil. Recently, we demonstrated a direct insulinotropic effect in isolated mouse islets and the clonal beta cell line INS-1 of the glycoside stevioside that is present in large quantity in these leaves. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that results from defects in both insulin and glucagon secretion as well as insulin action. In the present study we wanted to unravel if stevioside in vivo exerts an antihyperglycaemic effect in a nonobese animal model of type 2 diabetes. An i.v. glucose tolerance test (IVGT) was carried out with and without stevioside in the type 2 diabetic Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rat, as well as in the normal Wistar rat. Stevioside (0.2 g/kg BW) and D-glucose (2.0 g/kg BW) were administered as i.v. bolus injections in anaesthetized rats. Stevioside significantly suppressed the glucose response to the IVGT in GK rats (incremental area under the curve (IAUC): 648 ± 50 (stevioside) vs 958 ± 85 mM × 120 min (control); P < 0.05) and concomitantly increased the insulin response (IAUC: 51116 ± 10967 (stevioside) vs 21548±3101 μU × 120 min (control); P < 0.05). Interestingly, the glucagon level was suppressed by stevioside during the IVGT, (total area under the curve (TAUC): 5720 ± 922 (stevioside) vs 8713 ± 901 pg/ml × 120 min (control); P < 0.05). In the normal Wistar rat stevioside enhanced insulin levels above basal during the IVGT (IAUC: 79913 ± 3107 (stevioside) vs 17347 ± 2882 μU × 120 min (control); P < 0.001), however, without altering the blood glucose response (IAUC: 416±43 (stevioside) vs 417 ± 47 mM × 120 min (control)) or the glucagon levels (TAUC: 5493±527 (stevioside) vs 5033±264 pg/ml × 120 min (control)). In conclusion, stevioside exerts antihyperglycaemic, insulinotropic, and glucagonostatic actions in the type 2 diabetic GK rat, and may have the potential of becoming a new antidiabetic drug for use in type 2 diabetes.