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Is Stevia Safe?

A. This year, a few noncaloric sweeteners made from an extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant arrived on grocery-store shelves. The stevia plant has a long history of use as a sweetener in South America. These new sweeteners—sold under brand names like Truvia and PureVia—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 regarded as safe (GRAS) ingredient.

The FDA affirmed the GRAS status, but did not change the previous ruling on stevia. “Reb A is different than whole-leaf stevia or [other] stevia extracts, which can only be sold as dietary supplements,” says FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon. “Nobody has provided the FDA with evidence that whole-leaf stevia is safe.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, believes that 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.”

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).

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

I don't trust any artificial sweeteners. Sooner or later, they find out they are bad for you, long after they have been on the market. For the most part, I have just learned to eat most things that I used to sweeten with sugar totally unsweetened. This includes things like coffee and breakfast cereal. I even eat my oatmeal without sweeteners these days, and it really is not that bad.

Anonymous

03/25/2013 - 10:52am

Grow and eat your own food. Your life depends on it.

Anonymous

04/02/2013 - 9:35am

The FDA is useless. It's recommendations for or against are likewise useless. They are a bought and paid for puppet organization and should never be trusted. Articles which use FDA recommendations as a basis for safe are therefor based on fallacy.

Anonymous

04/02/2013 - 7:05pm

I actually bought stevia seeds to grow. Im a lactating mother and my babys skin rash raises up if I have processed sugar in my diet, especially white sugar. My child skin actually clears up without the artificial or processed sugars. Remember, our body is designed to to process plant foods for better nutrient absorpion with less stress to our system. Grow your own!

Anonymous

04/04/2013 - 9:37am

I'm confused...shouldn't the brain react to the sweetness of stevia the same way it does other sweeteners? If it's the sweetness that causes the neurological response doesn't that mean any sweetener will cause it?

Anonymous

04/06/2013 - 8:58pm

Attacks on FDA and USDA are totally legit. They approve poisons everyday. Consider GMOs in this discussion? Definitely time to boycott.

Anonymous

04/09/2013 - 8:51pm

Sounds to me like Anonymous has an axe to grind with the FDA but contibutes very little to the actual subject matter.

Anonymous

04/10/2013 - 2:07pm

Whenever I want to make a choice on a product, and I feel good about the ingredients, I make sure it hasn't been approved by the FDA. Then I buy it! I do not trust an administration that for years has been disregarding the public health, in the name of profit.

Anonymous

04/15/2013 - 7:32am

Whether it's Stevia, Truvia, Splenda, Aspartame Sucralose or any other artificial sweetner, they all mess up my digestive tract. I get gas, bloating, gas, diarrhea, gas, pain, and did I mention gas. I also get burning itchy eyes. All that artificial stuff is realy nasty!

I've had it in drinks, gum, snacks, you name it. And I'm also starting to hear Doctors talking about the FDA and not just about food, they're saying that they, the Doctors, and the general public have been spoofed by the chemical and drug companies and their use of marketing to the public to force the FDA to approve these things. GRAS Does Not Mean it's Safe - rather it means it just won't kill you immediately.

Anonymous

04/20/2013 - 7:13pm

Trader joes sells 100% organic stevia drops

Anonymous

04/25/2013 - 2:54pm

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