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Is Stevia Safe?

A. This year, a few noncaloric sweeteners made from an extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant arrived on grocery-store shelves. The stevia plant has a long history of use as a sweetener in South America. These new sweeteners—sold under brand names like Truvia and PureVia—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 regarded as safe (GRAS) ingredient.

The FDA affirmed the GRAS status, but did not change the previous ruling on stevia. “Reb A is different than whole-leaf stevia or [other] stevia extracts, which can only be sold as dietary supplements,” says FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon. “Nobody has provided the FDA with evidence that whole-leaf stevia is safe.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, believes that 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.”

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).

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

I wouldn't put all my trust into the FDA. They approved aspartame, after all.

Anonymous

10/15/2012 - 2:58pm

STEVIA IS GOOD, EVEN BETTER EATEN FRESH, ITS SWEET AND ITS LIKE EATING SEMI SWEET ROMANIAN LETTUCE.

Anonymous

10/13/2012 - 1:37am

THEY do not mention that in lab settings they feed the poor animals such bodacious amounts its no wonder they get sick and die. We'd have to consume the entire container of sweetener at one sitting to equal what they do with the lab animals! Unless you're diabetic, most doctors will tell you that in small amounts, REAL sugar, whether from corn or cane (body can't tell) is quite alright. It's when people over do it then there's a problem. My grandparents (who lived to their 90s) always said "eat what you want, but in MODERATION." My mother always said to stay away from the fast food (over processed) because it has no food value, and this was in the 60s. Turns out she is right. Anyone see SUPER-SIZE ME? Why, back in the 1920s and 30s they didn't have these many problems with diabetes and other types of health issues? Think about it.

Anonymous

09/29/2012 - 11:04pm

ok that makes no sense. it WAS available for purchase and NOT as a dietary supplement. my stepmother used to buy this stuf in bulk from our local health food store, and this was back in 98. i remember her scooping it out of the bin it was in and pouring it into a bag, then buying it and using it at home, adn it was sold not as a dietary thing, but as an all around sugar substitute.

Anonymous

09/23/2012 - 9:14pm

I'm growing stevia and use it in my tea and sometimes as a snack. It satisfies my sweet tooth and really, I've had no adverse effects whatsoever.

Anonymous

09/01/2012 - 10:31pm

Personally I add a few leaves of fresh peppermint to my tea and porridge if I want a sweeter taste :-)

Anonymous

08/28/2012 - 5:22am

I came here just trying to find out if eating the stevia I grow in my garden is safe. This post suggests that stevia may cause reproductive harm, etc., but the people turning it into a product for sale say it's "safe once processed." As usual, no answers.

Anonymous

08/22/2012 - 7:00pm

I have been using SweetLeaf Sweetener stevia, but flnlaiy baked with it for the first time in chocolate chip cookies, and it was great!You sound like you might be using stevia--what brand do you use and why?

Anonymous

08/20/2012 - 4:04pm

Of course it's not safe. Nothing that's made in a lab and has added ingredients and multiple "processes" is safe. I'd rather use real sugar or none then risk my health off the world of companies that already poison us with their soft drinks.

Anonymous

08/16/2012 - 1:13pm

This may sound ridiculous to anyone who like myself has grown up on a sugar/sweetener fuelled western diet but after doing a little research (very little) I've come to the conclusion that if it's not sweet when it comes out of the ground or falls from the tree then it's not meant to be sweet. For 30-40 there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of sugar (or HFCS) added to foods to make them tastier for the consumer and to replace the fat and fibre that has been removed and if you take a look at the rise in obesity levels compared with the amount of sugar being consumed you'll notice a pattern forming. Sugar, whether it be in the form of brown, raw, pure white, corn syrup, or fruit juice is making people overweight and causing diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and other chronic diseases. Without going into too much detail, the reason we're getting fat and sick is because sugar (from soft drink, bread, juice, sauces and yes, even the stuff naturally occurring in fruit) contains fructose (only a very small amount in a couple bit of fruit - the RDI). Fructose doesn't trigger any sensors in the body (unlike fat, fibre, and glucose), gets stored as fat instead of being used as energy and is essentially poisoning the body, leading to the above mentioned diseases.
Obviously everyone reading this is in someway concerned about their health (otherwise you wouldn't be on this site) so I would recommend sticking to foods that don't have anything added or taken out of them and if you want a sweet fix, have an apple. Lay off the sugar/sweetener for a couple weeks and you notice just how sweet these natural foods actually are.
Who's to say in 20 years time another big company won't come along (more than likely some new plant extract discovered) and pay the FDA to release a report stating that stevia actually shrinks your testes or makes your hair fall out.

Anonymous

08/16/2012 - 8:02am

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