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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 amazed that someone would post that "aspartame has been proven safe". But while there are some studies proving it safe, many, many more studies have proven it to be unsafe, or of questionable safety. Why is it that the only studies proving it safe are those done by, or in some way connected to or supported by the makers of aspartame? In the past decade people have begun to realize just how unsafe and dangerous Aspartame is, and as a result its popularity and sales are waning greatly.
Stevia was banned in the U.S. until companies like Cargill, Coca-cola and Pepsico petitioned the FDA to have stevia declared as GRAS product. Shortly after these giant corporations made their petitions, the FDA did in fact grant their wishes and bestowed a GRAS label upon rebaudioside A (rebiana)(,the compound that gives stevia a sweet taste.),thereby allowing these companies to bring to market their own stevia based products. Hmm., is this really a coincidence? Just something to think about.

Anonymous

11/24/2013 - 6:53pm

Aspartame proven safe? Oh please....it's known to have over 92 side effects including multiple cancers and death.....it's killed half the rats they tested it on...now that's a fact.

Anonymous

11/21/2013 - 5:42pm

I love honey and used to keep bees,
until CCD made it difficult to keep
Them alive. Systemic pestisodes
are In the nectar they make the honey
From. It kills the bees. Don't know
How safe honey is anymore.

Anonymous

11/01/2013 - 11:24am

Honestly, this is simply just too silly to be arguing about. Reb A, Stevia, etc. are not harmless, just as sugar and salt are not harmless. If one does their homework for a while, one will see that the FDA has very little to do with anything. They are there as a security blanket, and even though their hearts are in it for safety, we often forget that Pharm companies ARE the big business, and pharm companies are a part of our "beloved" government. Money talks in this world. I urge people to look into Codex Alimentarius, which rules out the FDA anyway. Anything going against Codex laws are promptly done away with, and that includes organic farming, Amish communities, ingredient listings, "safe" or "unsafe" chemicals. 7 out of 10 FDA-banned chemicals were reintroduced via Codex rulings. Let's not fool ourselves any longer about this. The FDA can only go so far before somebody else steps in and says: "No, we can't make any money from this, so we need to change the rules." What we put into our bodies is, and always should be, our own business... not a part of Big Business... Stevia may absorb some nasty chemicals while it's growing in the wild, but we put those chemicals there... let's not argue over it.

Anonymous

10/24/2013 - 4:37pm

I use stevia in the raw and wonder if that is safe. Perhaps I should just grow it in my yard and then I will know it is safe.

Anonymous

10/22/2013 - 2:55pm

"You think because it's a pretty leaf stevia is harmless, and chemicals like aspartame and saccharine are poisons. Fact is, aspartame has been proven safe, despite your conspiracy theories, while stevia actually may have some adverse effects. Deadly chemicals grow in nature. Even your raw unprocessed honey can have deadly all natural pathogens in it. Get over this delusion that natural = harmless and anything synthetic is a corporate plan to poison us. The FDA is trying to keep people safe, not trick them."

You are in idiot if you really think this, or just work for the FDA/Govt. The interest of the FDA is to protect the interests of the Pharm industry. "We say it's safe, but it causes cancer... oh yeah, our partner makes cancer meds, let us help you out." Don't be naive, just because the FDA says it's ok, doesn't mean anything is safe. They turn their heads, period.

Do your own research, be responsible for what you consume and don't beleive that any one has your best interests at heart.

Anonymous

10/12/2013 - 12:53pm

anyone that thinks aspartame is healthy is an idiot. Its been proven to cause cancer among other things it also raised my mothers thyroid. But were talking about Stevia not aspartame. Bottom line tho, i dont trust the FDA anyway. High Fructose Corn syrup isn safe either, and its in EVERYTHING! Not to mention our chicken nuggets arnt really made out of chicken anymore since they sent that stuff off to china to be processed without the oversight of the FDA. Wake up people!!! Start doing your research.

Anonymous

10/09/2013 - 11:16am

I just wonder how intense the research was on stevia how many of the case studies produced problems with reproduction? what was the ratio are we talking about a 99 percent possibility? are we looking at more like 1 out of 10. and were there any other adverse effects?

Anonymous

10/01/2013 - 7:55am

You think because it's a pretty leaf stevia is harmless, and chemicals like aspartame and saccharine are poisons. Fact is, aspartame has been proven safe, despite your conspiracy theories, while stevia actually may have some adverse effects. Deadly chemicals grow in nature. Even your raw unprocessed honey can have deadly all natural pathogens in it. Get over this delusion that natural = harmless and anything synthetic is a corporate plan to poison us. The FDA is trying to keep people safe, not trick them.

Anonymous

09/30/2013 - 9:39pm

NOW brand makes a product called: "Better Stevia" that is a 100% natural extract from the leaves. It also taste great! Just don't over due it...A little goes a long way, as far as sweetness goes. It's the only Stevia product I buy. :-)

~Gia

Anonymous

09/30/2013 - 4:19pm

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