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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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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

sounds amazing (:

Anonymous

10/06/2009 - 10:06am

Well, that makes me a little less confident in the purchase I made. I don't want to be infertile because I enjoy my tea sweet! The FDA is not all that strict anyway, in my opinion. I don't think I will buy it again, just to be safe. If they haven't gone through the normal safeguards how do I know it is safe?

Anonymous

10/21/2009 - 5:09pm

Stevia is very safe and has been used for thousands of years. The FDA is pushing this rhetoric because they're cozy with the corn refiners and their subsidies. They don't want to get in the way of their HFCS monopoly.

Anonymous

10/21/2009 - 8:45pm

I use Truvia... I had gastric bypass surgery, and I can't use Splenda b/c it gives me migraines. I LOVE TRUVIA! It is very sweet doesn't leave a nasty after taste, and I haven't used sugar since. Until it gets warnings I will continue to use it. Nurtra Sweet, and Sweet n Low have warnings. Everything has warnings now adays! LOL

My brother in law was told to use it for his diabetes.

I hope this helps everyone! :)

Anonymous

10/23/2009 - 8:46am

It's the best thing I did for my Diabetes and blood sugar levels. My doctor recommended it. So far it has help me on my diet to finally loose weight. So far 20 lbs since June.

Anonymous

10/24/2009 - 8:10am

a web site that shares side effects of truvia users:

http://side-effects.owndoc.com/truvia-side-effects.html

a web site that discusses the details of the product

http://www.janethull.com/newsletter/0808/truvia_a_new_sweetener_using_stevia.php

Anonymous

10/24/2009 - 1:16pm

I have used Steivia for years, but am to old to worry about genetic changes. I am not aware of any changes in myself. But it sounds like I wouldn't notice anyway.
It still makes me feel uncomfortable. So I have switched to Raw Sugar. It has things in it that are good for you and I don't use as much of the Raw sugar as I did the white.
Just in case you want to use Steivia anyway, you can buy the plant and grow it in your yard. I bought mine at wal-mart. Just take one tiny leaf and drop it in your tea.
Still use my plant now and then for my tea, but feel better knowing I am getting something back using the raw sugar.

Anonymous

10/25/2009 - 3:31am

They are putting stevia through more tests and different tests than they did for Nutrasweet or any of the other manmade sweeeteners. Stevia has been used for thousands of years all over the world except for most of the US. This is the same battle that doctors and patients have when a patient considers natural treatment over manmade prescriptions. The doctors are usually backing the pharmaceutical industry, which is why they don't usually endorse natural healing. There's always a reason behind why natural cures, remedies, solutions are not embraced by "professionals". That reason usually has to do with money. I say use it, but don't abuse it.

Anonymous

10/25/2009 - 4:59pm

I'm sure in the beginning the FDA did care about the safety of the American people. But for many, many decades the FDA have been known for rushing through products for approval so it can hit the shelves in stores. One can only imagine what's in it for them behind the closed doors. You just don't know if you can trust them, or not. After all, look at all the current and past problems with food and drugs in this country. Is anyone really looking out for us? I think I'll go natural from now on and everything in moderation.

Anonymous

11/03/2009 - 1:29pm

I just tried a stevia sweetened drink called Kahe. It was a Kiwi flavored sparkling juice but because of the stevia was only 65 calories! I love sparkling juices but they normally have way too much sugar, I thought this was a great alternative.

Anonymous

11/04/2009 - 6:40pm

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