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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Forget the artificial sweeteners and forget sugar. Use HONEY, which is one of the most natural and good-for-you sweeteners on earth! Read Labels and stay away from HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), which is in everything! Even canned vegetables! READ LABELS, use honey and you'll be alright!!


12/06/2014 - 10:53am

Off topic Regarding our dumbed-down society using "bad English:" Thank goodness that English evolves with the impact of all aspects of our society and immigration. Otherwise, thee and thou would still be using what I would called "stilted" English.

George Pilgrim ;)
Plymouth, Ma

The Stevia plant is natural; it wouldn't surprise me that some people might react to it even though it might be safe (and desirable) for 95 % of the population. OTOH, the processing of the plant could cause people to be affected negatively, especially if other products were produced at the same plant, such as peanuts or seafood, or any of the many products that we normally hear cause reactions.


11/12/2014 - 3:39pm

Sugar is nothing but harmful and dangerous, sugar is the leading cause of diabetes and obesity, so to say it is low risk is ludacris


11/08/2014 - 5:52pm

Just curious. Would the stevia leaf extract have any affect on the consumption is the blood thinner- Coumadin.


11/07/2014 - 5:26pm

So is stevia really dangerous? It was in my chobani Greek yogurt. The label says it is sweetened naturally with only natural ingredients. But I don't think stevia is as natural as it sounds. I still taste the difference between this yogurt and the regular chobani Greek yogurt. And I get the same after taste as I do with some diet sweetners like aspartame. I don't think people should eat stevia, I think they should just lower their sugar intake.


10/28/2014 - 5:14pm

I had really bad reaction on Stevia in two independent cases. One time I did not know I ingested because it was part of the TROPO50 JUICE BY TROPICANA COMPANY. My tongue became numb and I was shaky.
My hands were literally in tremor. Luckily symptoms stopped soon by themselves, but I am avoiding Stevia in anything now. I do not have any food allergies and it was surprising that I react in Stevia like this. Then I started reading about it and apparently a lot of people are experiencing same symptoms with Stevia.


10/21/2014 - 11:09pm

What should diabetics use to bake in lieu of sugar?


10/18/2014 - 10:16pm

I looked up "sick" in the dictionary. The comparative form of "sick" is "sicker," and the superlative form is "sickest." I am a retired English prof and thought that was the case but double-checked the dictionary to be positive.
I don't usually comment on a person's grammar usage but could not resist this one.


10/16/2014 - 6:40pm

The correct term would be poor English, if you must say.


10/13/2014 - 7:57am

I buy pure Stevia in powdered form at Trader Joe's. The small bottle is pricey -- nearly $10 -- but has lasted me for 4 months so far and I still have some left. It comes with a VERY small measuring spoon. Two of those sweetens an entire 64 oz pitcher of my homemade iced tea. I used to buy Truvia in mainstream grocery stores, but it has other added ingredients and ends up costing a lot more to use because it measures spoon for spoon like sugar. Also, there is one diet Coca Cola product that contains no aspartame, but is sweetened with Splenda instead. This is not as "natural" as Stevia, however it might be a step up from aspartame. I've tried the soda called "Zevia," however, the cola flavor is really, really disappointing. Aside from general health purposes, my motivation is to avoid the migraine headaches I often get. It seems to me I have far fewer of them w hen I steer clear of aspartame. I do wish that there were more studies available on the safety (or lack thereof) of Stevia and Splenda.


10/11/2014 - 1:16pm

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