Advertisement
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.

Download a Free Cookbook with Our Best Healthy Dessert Recipes!

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

Before I read or even noticed these articles, I became aware that my sugar blood count was always higher when eating high fructose corn syrup. Read your labels and keep asking that HFCS be removed from our food products.
Anonymous

Anonymous

09/23/2013 - 11:34am

You could never go wrong with some good old fashioned, non processed honey!

Anonymous

09/17/2013 - 3:09am

The problem is that it's almost impossible to get pure stevia extract (or whatever it would be called). Truvia et al are all diluted with non-nutritive filler talc and powders.

Anonymous

09/12/2013 - 12:09pm

Go plant the stevia herb in your garden, muddle with some mint and tea and you have a refreshing dring from the garden, guess who effectively had stevia banned fromthe country while their product was being developed and sold to an unsuspecting country, try saccharine and good ole, Monsanto.
For those of us who cannot or will not use refined sugar, stevia seems to be the best way to go. I have never heard of the research being touted here.
I've had no issues with using it, I've had two kids while using it....
Lets look at the problems associated with the other pink and yellow sweeteners, there is where the problems exist.

Anonymous

09/04/2013 - 3:35pm

This country is complaining about childhood obesity; and how HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP is
the cause. In addition; adults are gaining large amounts of weight too. People start looking at labels; and you will see the alarming amount of foods, sauces, Ketchup, BBQ sauces, cool whip, etc; all have
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP !!!! And that is just a few ! There was a commercial that came out here while back where the moderator said that sugar is sugar ! It was making a comparison of cane sugar to High Fructose corn syrup (and how your body can't tell the difference). I should have hired a lawyer to sue that company that produced the commercial; as that statement is a LIE. My body is highly allergic
to CORN PRODUCTS, and that is where HIGH FRUCTOSE CoRn SYRUP comes from !!!

Childhood obesity and Adult obesity have to be coming from eating the same foods; most of which contain
the HFCS !!!! WAKE UP AMERICA; and demand the removal of this substance from our foods !!!

Anonymous

08/31/2013 - 7:13pm

Ok, I'm just wondering. There scared of putting out Stevia for people but other artificial sugar substitutes that can be dangerous as well as certain medications can cause health problems or even death is allowed. Hmm....

Anonymous

08/28/2013 - 4:44pm

I used Stevia for years but now after having 2 children my wife and I are having problems getting pregnant for the third time. My doctor has confirmed I have a lower than normal sperm count. Not sure if it is related but I have stopped using Stevia it in my hot drinks.

Anonymous

08/21/2013 - 11:43am

In the 1980s, animal studies linked stevia with adverse effects on fertility and reproductive development and possible genetic mutations.

And ....what happened to the Aztecs? Just sayin'.

Anonymous

08/15/2013 - 4:20pm

I just bought stevia extract from trader joes, now I'm afraid to try it. Do you think it's safe. It says a dietary supplement, I am borderline diabetic and vegetarian

Anonymous

08/13/2013 - 6:16pm

I use raw stevia in my coffee only. A small amount goes a long way. I don't trust ANYTHING the FDA says. How many things have they approved that have turned out to be harmful years later?! Not to mention lobbyists and corporations corrupt the entire process so I don't believe many studies that come out unless they are independently-funded and carried out on the appropriate population.

Anonymous

08/11/2013 - 10:00am

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner