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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the FDA, what a joke, like we should pay any attention to anything they would approve or not, given they are bought and paid for by the Food and Drug industries. look at what they did to Dr. Burzinsky, If they approve it, I would be more suspect of it. Terrorists killed 2800 people and we now have the TSA and Homeland- our lives have all changed. Prescription medicines kill 200,000 people a year- not a peep, just the cost of doing business- Be your own advocate and do your homework.


03/22/2012 - 2:09pm

I just purchased agave nectar - does anyone know the difference ebtween this and th eblue agave nectar? How does it do with sweetening coffee?? Really trying ot give up sugar but need an alternative. HELP!!


03/23/2012 - 8:46pm

To the person who thinks pure white sugar is good for you because it "pure white", you don't quite get it. Anything highly refined (Sugar or sweetener or carbs) are bad for you because it goes into your system way to fast and eventually burns out your pancreases. Then you become a diabetic type 2. Lots of other fun things happen like strokes ect... ect... ect... The general rule is if man touches it, don't eat it!!! Eat things in their natural. I can’t believe the ignorant questions that come out of peoples mouths. It's your body and you don't even know anything about nutrition! Read up and educate yourself. This is one thing you can do that the government can't control (yet). You best bet to a long healthy life is to kick the sugar habit and cravings.


03/25/2012 - 12:36pm

To the person who stated type 2 Diabetes is someone overweight that is not exactly true....many people have type 2 Diabetes and are in the normal weight range.


03/27/2012 - 5:30pm

Type 2 diabetes is caused by high sugar intake over a prolonged period of time. Yes, being over weight is a factor, but it would be physiologically ignorant to claim that it doesn't highly depend on glucose levels.


03/28/2012 - 3:22pm

Poison ivy is not a food and it is not poison. The problem people have with so called poison ivy is that their body is allergic to it.


03/29/2012 - 10:08am

Bottom line... have fun, enjoy each day & accept that we're all gonna die


03/29/2012 - 1:56pm

So Aspartame is much, much, much, much more harmful than Stevia yet it got approved fairly easily despite concerns from numerous Neuroscientists and other scientists. Had GD Searle, purchased by Monsatan (Monsanto), invented the Truvia and not Aspartame, then Stevia would have been approved and not Aspartame. The FDA is a joke!


03/30/2012 - 5:51pm

About the person who commented that you cannot avoid type 2 diabetes by only avoiding sugar - they are dead on right. Reducing your sugar intake is a great start, but where the biggest problem lies is with the processed foods and simple carbs - chips, cookies, pastries etc. And even just by eating too much rice, potatoes etc. Too many carbs - whether they come from sugar or simple starches - turn to sugar and then fat. They exhaust your pancreas and eventually your body cannot create enough insulin, resulting in diabetes.


04/06/2012 - 10:23pm

There is a difference between pure stevia, Truvia and PureVia. Do some research people. Stevia extract is minimally processed. Truvia, Purevia and others like it add more chemicals and other ingredients that really negate the idea of getting a pure and chemical free sweetener that doesn't cause side effects.


04/06/2012 - 10:27pm

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