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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

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

You can't just eat sugar in small doses, because almost every type of food that is manufactured in the United States, has sugar in it. Sugar makes food taste better and that is why there are so many manufacturers that use it. This is also the reason that sugar substitutes were created in the first place. Back in the 50's, the FEDS realized that sugar was causing health issues and passed bills to stop the production of manufactures foods with sugar in them. When that happened, the manufactures raced to come up with a sugar substitute. The problem is, all sugar substitutes are derived from sugar. So basically, by adding a chemical or anything to the sugar and giving it a different name, this allowed the manufactures to bypass the federal mandate and continue adding sugar to their foods. In the meantime, the chemicals added to the sugar started creating bigger and more deadlier problems than the sugar did, and that's where we are today.

Anonymous

01/28/2016 - 11:20am

This is why the FDA allows Truvia and PureVia to be sold as a sugar substitute and not actual Stevia. The FDA has long been accused of allowing products that make people sick for the sake of big business, and probably other reasons I will not mention. You hardly ever see the FDA approving something that is actually healthy for you, so why would anyone think they would do it in this case. Stick with the all natural 100% stevia and you should be fine. There are a few companies out there like Stevia Corp that have combatted the bitter taste that Stevia has by using mushrooms to take the bitter taste out. I personally think the bitter taste come from putting too much in. Either way, the all natural Stevia has been used for over 800 years and practically every country in the world has been using it for decades before the United States FDA ever thought of approving it.

Anonymous

01/28/2016 - 11:12am

Going to try a month using Srevia to see for myself whether it's right or not for new!

Anonymous

01/26/2016 - 5:45am

Seems to me sugar's ok in moderation/small doses.

Just dont drink 5 cokes a day and you'll be fine

Anonymous

01/14/2016 - 1:29pm

The 10-2-15 comment said that Truvia has no additives, which is false. The main ingredient in Truvia is erythitol, as sugar alcohol, with a small amount of Reb A modified stevia. Look at the Nutrition facts and ingredient list. I tried Truvia for a month thinking it was stevia, but I couldn't figure out why my stomach always ached. Then I threw up and figured out it must be the Truvia, so I stopped using it, and three days later all my stomach aches were gone. I complained to Costco when I returned my package of Truvia, that the package was mislabeled, and now the Truvia packages admit that it has sugar alcohol which can cause stomach upset.

Anonymous

11/29/2015 - 1:41am

Cheese is yummy!

Anonymous

11/20/2015 - 3:31pm

In response to one commenter, do not be fooled into thinking Truvia is pure stevia. It is not. It contains erythritol which is a sugar alcohol the company makes from corn and yeast. I found out the hard way on a candida cleansing diet, which allows stevia, but NOT yeast! I was using a variety of stevia product which included erythritol and wondered why I was not getting results. Read labels to be sure you are getting what you expect. SweetLeaf, for one, may be a better choice than either Truvia or PureVia.

Anonymous

11/19/2015 - 10:42pm

We do not require sugar in our diet. Just give it up and you do not have to worry.

vythi

Anonymous

11/07/2015 - 4:15am

I agree with anonymous about what do we do now? I am in the same boat and have problems with IBS and am trying to healthy up my meals also using Stevia in the Raw. I am so tired of trying to do what is right and then finding out I may be poisoning myself by using sweeteners. . But, I will continue using it in my tea and on other things. You can wait until you know what freezes over and the FDA never seems to really give an opinion you can trust on anything. I use my own judgement now and stevia does not seem to bother my health. It is a natural product. I use it a lot. Bea

Anonymous

11/04/2015 - 1:34pm

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