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.
I have found SweetLeaf brand stevia to be the best tasting of stevia brands I have tried ( I believe I have tried most brands). I have been using it for about 5 years for general sweetening and in cooking and have nothing but good things to say about this brand.
02/02/2012 - 12:56pm
BLUE AGAVE NECTAR. Case closed!
02/05/2012 - 10:17am
I liked & was using Stevia, most often in my coffee while eating out in restaurants. I kept having these "not-feeling-good-/almost fainting spells when going out to eat. It turned out that after sipping some of my coffee the server would bring first, a spell would come on! After several 'guesses', & on the suggestion of a friend, I emailed the Stevia distributor & learned there was a conflict between the carvedilol I take for high blood pressure & the Stevia. They said "Stevia is known to lower bp".
I stopped using it, much to my dismay, & haven't had any more spells. This is purely a fyi for those interested. If anyone has any suggestion or knowledge of how I could safely return to using Stevia, I'd appreciate it.
02/05/2012 - 2:03pm
STEVIA IS 100% SAFE BECAUSE IT IS NATURAL AND EXTRACTED FROM A PLANT JUST LIKE SUGAR CANE! YOU CAN GROW IT IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD! I have the plant in my back yard, you can eat the leaf and it tastes sweet. you can read the ingredient on the back of the box and it says 1 thing. THE ONLY SAFE SUGAR SUBSTITUTE SO FAR.
02/06/2012 - 4:02pm
"brown sugar has a brown color and a distinctive taste because it has small remnants of burned sugar cane still in it."
"I look at the studies of Splenda and Aspartame and I find very little in the way of damning evidence that they will really hurt me. There is some talk about how it affects the flora in my gut. But there are some flora that I don't want there. If I kill off a specific genus+species (put scientific name here) organism, will I have a real problem?"
" In all respects, 'refined' sugar is more 'pure' than raw sugar or honey, since refined sugar is filtered and cleaned raw sugar"
Am I missing something? YES! You are missing ALOT -_-
02/09/2012 - 12:27am
Poison Ivy is 100% natural too.
02/20/2012 - 11:39pm
I LOVE STEVIA!!! :)
03/01/2012 - 12:08am
STEVIA IS 100% SAFE BECAUSE IT IS NATURAL AND EXTRACTED FROM A PLANT
Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is natural, so I guess you'd be happy to grow that and eat it as well?
03/09/2012 - 6:41am
I am undecided about Stevia and Reb A. To me, they both taste bad - sorry. But as for diabetes; sugar and the over use of it, does not cause diabetes. Type 1 is Juvenal diabetes and Type 2 typically is brought on by being overweight. Too much sugar is not the only cause of being overweight, in fact it is lower on the list than those who eat too many carbs. Everyone's metabolism is different. If you are a serious fruit eater, you are probably aware that the fruit breaks down into sugars in your body, same for carbs. These too can contribute to type 2. There is no set answer to any of these, but please be aware that using too much sugar does not necessarily cause diabetes. You have to have a well balanced diet - everyone should. But if you think that you can avoid type 2 diabetes by eliminating sugar, you need to do some major research.
03/12/2012 - 7:31pm
Regarding anything with aspartame or phenylalanine, you NEED to watch the following documentary - its called Sweet Misery; A Poisoned World. I used to live on diet sodas but will never again touch anything with those ingredients. There are so many horrible side effects, please watch so you are aware of the possibilities and learn from the stories of those in the film.