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.

Download a Free Cookbook with Our Best Healthy Dessert Recipes!


I've been using liquid stevia (NuNaturals-alcohol free) for a hear and a half and it has "cured" me of my sugar-junkie mode. I bought a couple of plants as an object lessone for my friends to help them understand that in nature there really is a plant that is sweet without calories. I think of it like salt or vanilla. Just flavoring for my food. I have also been on a low carb (high fat) regimen and have lost 15 pounds in this year an a half without feeling hungry of deprived. Myr ecent blood work showed everything normal. I like add liquid stevia to my starbuck's. I also like to mix liquid stevia in sour cream or yogurt and eat it with fresh strawberries. To me it's like the best cheesecake.


05/02/2013 - 1:19pm

Stevia is safe but these other brands are adding sugar (think dextrose) to make it more palatable and pourable.. whatever. The difference between Stevia and sugar substitutes is that it is not a chemical, it is an extract from a plant (think mint extract or like someone said, vanilla) and it does not cause a glycemic reaction... i.e. the pancreas does not release insulin into the blood stream the way sugar and sugar substitutes cause it to do. It is a good product but you have to buy the one without the sugar added (which defeats the purpose *cough Truvia cough*). And for those of you who love Splenda, well you are loving your blood sugar going up too. It's made from sugar... well my Dad told me you can make explosives and poison from sugar...

Aspartame and all those others gave me a brain fog and are a bunch of mixed chemicals and Stevia has not given me any side effects.


05/03/2013 - 10:04pm

stevia is not an "artificial" sweetener. it is natural; like sugar or honey. lets not confuse it with artificial sweeteners.


06/18/2013 - 2:21pm

I use Pure Via & NuNaturals stevia , no adverse effects, anything is better than processed Sugar!


06/19/2013 - 4:22pm

I have tried Truvia in the past...I found it to be more bitter than sweet and had allergic reaction after ingesting it, swollen tongue itching around the eyes, ear lobs and chin. I just heard of a new sweetener made from the Monk Fruit found in Asia. FDA considers it 0 calories and it has been used in Asia for centuries for medical along with sweetening foods


06/25/2013 - 4:54pm

Perhaps I am the one in 100,000, but I definitely have a reaction to stevia. If I use more than a tiny bit, I get a sore dry throat, and constipation, then when I used about 3 packets in a day, I began to feel dizzy and spacey and my tongue swelled. I know NATURAL is the big word, but arsenic is NATURAL and so are maggots but I am not going to eat them.


06/26/2013 - 12:32pm

Stevia caused my grandmother to have nose bleeds that the doctors couldn't stop until they cauterized it.


06/26/2013 - 3:42pm

Why do people seem to think that "natural" means safe?? Cyanide is natural, but I wouldn't eat it. Just because it's an herb, doesn't mean it's good for you. Herbs can interact with medicines and have all sorts of side-effects that we may not know about. And, really, we're looking to China for a safe product, the same country that was putting malamine in milk and infant formula? Really?


06/27/2013 - 1:06am

I have a Stevia plant ....I would recommend getting worries about added ingredients or chemicals.


06/28/2013 - 3:42pm

I use Stevia, without the "fillers". I don't use much, but maybe a packet or two a week. The trick is to use real produce, fruits, to sweeten whenever possible. It is not only the chemical, manufactured, sugar substitutes that are bad for you, but it is the sugar, also. If you can get that out of your diet, then you will be making giant strides to healthier living. Absence of processed sugars and artificial substitutes will make you healthier all the way around. I use fruits when I have a "sugar" craving. Best is to eat your meal with low fat protein, or healthy fats like avocados, lean meats, nuts, then fill your plate with fresh vegetables, home grown if possible or organic, if possible. Keep away from white flours, sugars and processed foods. I have been doing this now for two months and no longer have real cravings for sugar products and have lost fifteen pounds and my husband has lost twenty-five pounds. This is our lifestyle now and it is not hard to do. Just eat vegetables and some fruits whenever you are craving sweets! Try to find organic or, if possible, grow your own.


07/07/2013 - 9:56pm

Get a full year of EatingWell magazine.
World Wide Web Health Award Winner Web Award Winner World Wide Web Health Award Winner Interactive Media Award Winner