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!


I read just the opposite at Consumer Labs. They said the rebA extract was NOT safe and only the whole leaf was safe and how it is processed of course. Coke has a part in the extract "testing" and submitted it'w own since it had a green product in production and ready to come out. It had to have the FDA approval. It got it and the Coke product has come out. Comsumer labs says the best way to get pure Stevia Whole Leaf is to grown your own.


07/03/2014 - 4:58pm

I find it impossible to but Stevia in any of our local stores. There is Truvia, and Krisda, but both have other substitutes added. They are not pure Stevia. This article goes on at great length about Aspartame which has been known as harmful for years, but is still offered in many restaurants as a sugar substitute, It is safer to just use sugar in moderation or not at all. I am not a diabetic, but they can use fruit juice in baking but in moderation, a type one diabetic has trouble even with fruit.


07/26/2014 - 7:51pm

You can call it Stevie if you want, but it's Stevia. I use it every day, but not very much. I'm trying to cut down on anything sweet. I lost a little weight and an inch or so so far. I know I will eventually get to the right weight so I'll continue to use Stevia. I buy it at Walmart and the brand name of it is Great Value.


07/29/2014 - 9:18pm

The FDA is a JOKE. The FDA has approved and allowed many poisons in our food for years. It's funny how everyone was all over chinese restaurants for using MSG in their food, meanwhile EVERY major food manufacturer uses MSG in many many food products. The best part is that they can circumvent the listing of MSG in the ingredients list by purchasing "seasonings" from another manufacturer.

If the FDA says something is safe, I think it's a safe bet to wait 15-20 years when the scientific community points out the dangers of the product. Then, watch how the FDA won't do anything about it b/c companies are making billions off the product.


08/04/2014 - 9:10am moderation...has proven to be Chemical side effects...yes it has calories and for the diabetic this would be a problem. But I cant stomach any of these fake sweeteners.... stevia is gross, equal is gross, sweet n low is gross and splenda is gross... PERIOD.

just my 2 cents


08/21/2014 - 11:50am

Actually, MSG does have to be labeled. It cannot be called "spices" or anything similar in the ingredient list. It does not have to be called out, however, if the product contains MSG that is from a hydrolyzed or autolyzed yeast or similar product. The thing is, if you are so against certain things in your food, do your research and avoid them. A lot of people don't care.


08/21/2014 - 4:18pm

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that the two leading nutritional drinks (Ensure and Boost) are now adding artificial sweeteners that are on the list of food items NOT to consume - both are artificial sweeteners that are allowed to be labeled as "fiber." The one in Ensure has the same content as Splenda; the one in Boost is stevia leaf. Before I read the labels (a major mistake) I tried first one and then the other, and developed diaarhea both times. It was then when I read the labels and researched the new contents, and found out the reason for the diaarhea (I have IBS and almost all artificial sweeteners are triggers). I think it is terrible that a company supposedly making a product for people with health problems is using a content that actually can make the consumer sicker. Why did FDA allow the designation of "fiber" rather than artificial sweetener, other than for the benefit of the company - it knows the emphasis on eating less sugar and more fiber as being healthy for the consumer. It is very misleading to allow, without its true identification, something that will make the consumer sicker.


08/30/2014 - 10:58am

Sounds, to me, like sugar is lowest risk of all sweetners. In an effort to reduce or eliminate one thing (sugar for diabetics, calories for dieting) - we will always add another. We have to weigh these things out ourself and understand were we want our risk. There are approx. 15 calories in a teaspoon of sugar. I decided to stay with sugar, since I only use two teasspoons a day. In an effort to get those calories back, I walk a bit more each day. Oh well. My 2 cents.


09/16/2014 - 9:32am

can anybody help here with out throwing mud !!!!!


09/18/2014 - 7:44am

Sugar at the end of the day is the only safe sweetener. Everything in moderation.


10/01/2014 - 1:38am

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