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.
Hmmm, sounds like it's safer to grow it yourself than to use one of the processed products, though...
01/23/2010 - 11:20am
Beware of corruption in the FDA, remember, there are no regulations stating that a FDA scientist can not have worked for a Nutrasweet/aspartame/saccharin/splenda company before working for the FDA!. The artifical sweetener companies hold a monopoly on sweeteners and you can be sure they lobby hard against stevia. Remember too that manmade sweeteners are carcinogenic and that the studies that say they are safe were performed by the manufacturing companies themselves-talk about a conflict of interest!
I enjoy stevia and the only bad thing about it is it can be bitter depending on the amount you use and the brand name.
03/03/2010 - 12:07pm
If you read the FDA website, it says they are partially privately subsidized or funded. Who are those who would be interested in donating money to the government?...I presume lobbyists, food corporations, etc. -Tarantino
04/08/2010 - 9:32am
Both Splenda and Aspartame give me migraines! These are toxic chemicals!
06/21/2010 - 10:25pm
Not EVERYTHING that's natural is "good for you." ;) Marajuana is natural, but it isn't good for you! That being said, I'd much rather have something that IS natural than something man made. All in all, most things in moderation...(yes, notice I didn't say ALL things in moderation...that would mean Marajuana too, but remember it's not good for you, unless of course you've been diagnosed with cancer and are taking it for medicinal purposes under the guidance and permission of your doctor.) I use Stevia...but mostly sugar. If you use a tablespoon of sugar per day (and I mean in your coffee or tea and not in anything else other than natural sugar which comes from complex carbohydrates like fruit and veggies, than you're going to be okay. Obviously, if you're diabetic, you want to stay away from sugar and watch the sugar (including the natural sugar) you take in per day.
As far as the FDA, I could write a book about them and a million others but I won't. The only way to combat the "goings on" in any company of association is to eat properly. One then, doesn't have to worry about reading all of that ridiculous wording on packages when one is eating fruits and veggies and whole grains (such as Ezekial Bread). It takes the headache, worrying and fretting over whether or not this organization or that organization, like the FDA, is "out to get us."
Go natural. It's the best bet...and yes, sugar is natural...in it's natural state...get some sugar cane...it's just as sweet as the plant Stevia is made from!
06/22/2010 - 8:12pm
There will always be people who are allergic to products or have some side effects. I does not mean everyone else cannot use it! People are allergic to medicines, make-up, household products, etc.
If it makes you feel bad or you have side effects then find something else. A friend of mine has bad headaches when she drinks something with aspartame in it. It doesn't bother me. So I will continue to use my stevia! Instead of aspartame.
07/21/2010 - 11:22am
If you are smart you will STAY AWAY from ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!!!!!!! THEY ARE POISON!!!!!
08/11/2010 - 12:49pm
Unless I have skipped something, I have yet to see anyone answer the question as to what is a safe amount of Stevia to consume on a daily basis.
I put 1/2 tsp in my coffee/tea which translates to maybe 2 tsps a day. one TBS at absolute most.
Does anybody know the safe amount?????
I read yesterday that 4 mg. per pound of body weight is tbe recommended daily amount.
This brings about another question how many mg's are in a teaspoon of stevia? A half teaspoon? That answer changes the question from an amount to weight.
08/19/2010 - 7:48am
Stevia is not an "artificial" sweetener. It is a plant and is therefore authentic and authentically sweet. Sugar doesn't own the sweet market. It is also not dangerous. The FDA's "fertility concerns" are questionable especially since in reality, the FDA is in bed with the food industry. That agency is not working for food safety. Stevia poses a risk to further profits to sugar substitute manufacturers as well as the sugar industry itself. There is far too much sugar in the American diet and the sugar industry is concerned that people may find a good alternative. I prefer SweetLeaf brand myself. The products this article touts are not pure Stevia but include sugar. For those of us who cannot eat sugar (and sugar substitutes are sugars), and that probably goes for everyone these days, Stevia is really the only choice.
09/24/2010 - 7:55am
I have used both stevia and truvia and neither impress me. I think I will just stick with sugar.