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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

Any processed sweetener is not natural therefore Stevia is not a safe alternative for those that are allergic to artificial sweeteners as am I . Sugar is sugar is sugar whether it is cane, white refined, honey, fructose, sucrose, organic, whatever and does the same thing to the body. I am also diabetic. I have tried literally EVERTHING.and met with Nutritionists, Dietiticians, and Diabetes specialists as I have worked very hard to get this under control after a serious illness and the bottom line is this, it's great if you can use artificial sweeteners but if you can't....water, unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened teas are about your only choices because all sweeteners process the same way in your body and most artificial sweeteners leave your body only craving more sugar. Sad but true. Wish I had never seen a soft drink, fast food, or candy/cookie. LOL.

Anonymous

10/08/2016 - 6:24am

I grow Stevia plants and you can have it directly from the plant in it's natural state. Sugar industry is fighting the classification of it because it is the best you can get with no cal's or side affects on diabetics. Also no bad ingredients in it as it is pure. Try it! We have elininated sugar all together in my house and don'r miss it at all!

Anonymous

10/05/2016 - 1:45am

As natural as honey is- don't kid yourself , it still is sugar. Agave is also sugar and has a higher fructose percent than most other sugars so don't think that is a goo substitute either.
Although stevia is not ideal, It is much better than having sugar. Ideally cut back on sweeteners as much as possible

Anonymous

08/31/2016 - 9:03am

My concern about Stevia is that, it's suddenly in everything, whether I want it or not. I remember the same thing happening with Splenda. It was a great alternative to sugar, no side-effects, best thing since sliced bread, yada, yada. So companies started adding it to everything. Now, we know that Spenda isn't good for you. I'm not saying Stevia is or isn't bad, I'm just saying, how about a few more years of research before we start dumping it in everything? I picked up a package of unsweetened, organic protein powder, read the ingredients and saw that it had Stevia. To me, something that is unsweetened has no sweeteners, not even fake ones.

Anonymous

08/21/2016 - 10:09am

As someone who absolutely cannot have ANY sugar substitute; I read labels and don't consume things that list them. I mistakenly purchased a beverage that stated on the label "no artificial sweeteners". I was in a hurry , didn't have my glasses on and assumed I was safe. I took just a small drink of the "healthy antioxidant" beverage and I immediately noticed an after taste. I then read that the sweetening agent was Stevia and knew I was in trouble. I have been extremely ill for two days. I was up all night last night with stomach and digestive issues (I will spare the details). This is the absolute worst reaction I have ever had to any sweetener that wasn't cane sugar. I strongly suggest that anyone who has an aversion to artificial sweeteners stay as far away from this product as possible.

Anonymous

06/30/2016 - 10:53am

Overthinking things can cause stress

Anonymous

05/14/2016 - 3:58am

"Seems to me sugar's ok in moderation/small doses. Just dont drink 5 cokes a day and you'll be fine."

Not quite. It means don't consume a constant intake of sugar-added foods and excessive fructose laden ones like like ketchup, barbeque sauce, bread, dry cereal, honey, nutrition bars, salad dressing, yogurt, soy milk, ice cream, fruit preserves, cookies, peanut butter, bacon, pasta sauce, fruit juice, pizza, candy, canned fruit, coffee & tea drinks, meat glazes and sauces, sausage, curry, chutney, glazed nuts, pie, cake, apple sauce, chocolate milk, pepper sauces (like sriracha and many others), instant oatmeal, frozen dinners, bottled tea, and the list goes on and on and on.

Anonymous

04/27/2016 - 12:29pm

The question about ingredient fructoosaccrilides?spelling ? My knowledge is fructose is sugar saccrlides is saccharin again sp? Not sure why that's in stevia but stevia is sweet more than regular sugar so I would ask pharmacist or dietician and also Google that whole word. .I'm on metforman just started several months ago. .watching my sugar better but also you need to watch carbs too as they turn to sugar in your body. A lot of diabetic and diet products have a sugar alcohol number so I need to know more about how that plays into overall lowering of blood sugars

Anonymous

04/19/2016 - 8:19pm

Yay

Anonymous

03/21/2016 - 3:09am

Hey Sylvia, Yes, Stevia is safe. I am also diabetic and have been using pure organic white stevia extract (from the leaf) with no additives or fillers. It does not raise my blood glucose levels and I have been able to stop using metformin altogether just by changing my eating habits. My A1C level is now around 5.6 and the change in eating habits has also resulted in weight loss. This has helped with lower blood glucose levels as well as lower blood pressure. I love stevia and will continue to use it in its pure powder form from Stevia Mystore.

Anonymous

03/04/2016 - 3:53am

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