Is Stevia Safe?

A. Stevia has been touted as a "natural" sweetener and an alternative to sugar, but is it safe for us to consume? Though it seems this non-caloric sweetener just made its name recently, the stevia plant has a long history of use as a sweetener in South America. These newer stevia sweeteners—sold under brand names like Truvia, Stevia in the Raw or OnlySweet, and in blends with sugar, such as PureVia or Born Sweet Zing (at 8 to 10 calories per teaspoon)—include a highly purified extract of stevia called Rebaudioside A (a.k.a. Rebiana or Reb A). Reb A is 200 times sweeter than sugar and does not raise blood sugar.

Until December 2008, stevia and its derivatives could be sold in the U.S. only as dietary supplements, due to safety concerns. In the 1980s, animal studies linked stevia with adverse effects on fertility and reproductive development and possible genetic mutations. But in 2008, the makers of Truvia and PureVia submitted research to the Food and Drug Administration regarding Reb A's safety and petitioned for it to become a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredient.

The FDA affirmed, and still maintains, the GRAS status only for highly purified stevia extracts (Rebaudioside A, or Reb A). Whole stevia leafs, including products containing "crude stevia extract" or "whole leaf stevia," are not classified as GRAS because data is lacking on their effects on the cardiovascular, urinary and reproductive systems.

However, some consumer advocacy groups, like The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), criticize the quality of the studies (which are often done by the manufacturers themselves) and think the Reb A's GRAS status was granted prematurely. "In the past, FDA protocol required repeated testing in two separate animal species prior to approval, but in this case it didn't," says David Schardt, nutrition expert with CSPI. "We are not warning people to avoid Reb A, but the public should be aware that the FDA did not follow all the usual safeguards."

Despite being "natural," sugar substitutes like Stevia that earn the GRAS status usually don't have as much safety data as approved additives, meaning it's worth using Stevia sparingly—the daily acceptable dietary intake, or ADI, for Stevia is 9 packets.

Bottom Line: The FDA considers Reb A a safe sugar substitute, but has not approved other forms of stevia. If you want to use stevia, we suggest sticking with Reb A (look for it on the ingredient label), and using it sparingly.

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everybody's body (constitution) reacts differently based on many internal and external factors. for some, stevia is great. for others, it dramatically lowers their blood sugar an causes other ailments. i suggest to work with your doctor to fully examine your state of health and the integral reactions taking place in your body. testing new supplements is always best done with a doctor present, who cares and is interested in your optimal health.


07/08/2013 - 10:51pm

Animal studie?... Really animals are not mention to have sugar.... There body will not prove what the humans are. We are built stronger. And we live longer.


07/10/2013 - 7:49pm

I dislike the taste of stevia intensely. If you dont want to use refined white sugar in moderation, try using raw, unprocessed sugar.


07/20/2013 - 5:25am

Stevia has been used to sweeten soft drinks in Japan for decades, go figure........How many other animal species do we need to test for how long? FDA bullshit has us (USA) behind at the insistence of other sweeteners lobbies including sugar


07/24/2013 - 10:33am

When I want to sweeten my smoothies I use organic molasses. If my fruit is sweet enough, I don't bother. I buy "certified" organic fruits only from both my health food store and FruitShare (online). I was going to try Stevia until I read some of these posts. I'm allergic to many foods, so I think I'll pass. Thanks, everyone.


07/28/2013 - 2:26pm

I love stevia in powder, tablet, or liquid form and found at major retailers!


07/29/2013 - 4:34pm

Stevia has been a beneficial sweetener for me. I have had diabetes II for eight years and find that stevia really helps as a sweetner for cereals.
I have to agree with the lady who posted on 07/07/13 who advises to eat healthier by choosing fruits instead of sugar or sugar substitutes.
Monk fruit is a new product on the market that has can be used as a sugar substitute.


08/02/2013 - 10:53pm

If you are pre-diabetic, using stevia surely is better than sugar. I have 2 stevia plants and crush some leaves into my iced tea. I feel perfectly safe using it, just the same as using mint. Stevia plants in England have been used "forever" for sweetening their tea. To me, the greater danger is using pesticides or fertilizers on plants that we consume. Stevia is easy to grow, inexpensive, and tastes great. It can be an intense taste, so just use a little.


08/06/2013 - 11:50am

I have used both Stevia extract AND sweetleaf (the plant- purchased and home grown) I would be more worried about the corporations that are 'mis-labeling' and misleading consumers with what they are truly selling. Any ADDITIVES are bad in this case. Beware of Maldextrose, and do you research! These companies are NOT looking out for your best interest, they are looking to make a buck.


08/07/2013 - 9:17am

I think Stevia is very ok if you use only the fresh leaves and not the processed, because processed have already mixed with chemical.


08/07/2013 - 11:04pm

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