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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? 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

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 - 11:53am

Overthinking things can cause stress

Anonymous

05/14/2016 - 4:58am

"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 - 1:29pm

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 - 9:19pm

Yay

Anonymous

03/21/2016 - 4:09am

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 - 4:53am

How good is Stevia n the raw? I understand that it contains Dextrose.

Anonymous

02/20/2016 - 12:26pm

Stevia as the green plant that you can grow in your backyard or find as dried leaf or tincture form is considered safe and has even been studied and found to have health benefits.

Anonymous

02/19/2016 - 12:00am

Just use locally harvested honey or organic honey where you require sweetening and drop all sugar completely (game over) and move forward to the next problem of products that are poisining us.......

Anonymous

02/15/2016 - 2:48am

I am using Stevia for sugar replacement. It has Stevia rebaudiana extract and fructooligosaccharides.
I do not about he second ingredient. Does it contain sugar? Can someone let me know if it is safe to use. I am also Pre-dibetic that is why I want to cut down sugar from my diet. I would appreciate if someone can clarify the second ingredient and whether I can use for sugar replacement. -Ranen Banerjee

Anonymous

02/01/2016 - 9:13pm

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