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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? 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

Stevia leaf extract is found in those 100 calorie yogurts and it tastes awful. Reminds me od Sucaryl, if you remember that.

Anonymous

07/11/2015 - 11:42am

I was really surprised to taste stevia and found it to taste really good.I love sugar and just found out I have high sugar and am now on medication.I was so happy to find Stevia on the store shelves.I can now enjoy the sweeter things now,like my cereal.

Anonymous

06/23/2015 - 10:26pm

I use stevia, of course I had to get use to the taste. To me it reminds me of a fruit sweet ,I recommend the powered kind , I just couldn’t get liquid right, I love it not side effect I been using it for years, and will continue , I addicted to sugar , thank God for stevia. 

Anonymous

06/16/2015 - 11:30am

Pure Stevia powder (Reb A) works for me. Just Stevia, not in combination with anything else.

Anonymous

06/13/2015 - 6:26pm

I just learned that my body cannot break down Stevia and it caused a HUGE crazy rash on my legs that itches beyond tolerance :(

Anonymous

06/01/2015 - 2:45pm

I simply do not like Stevia. It has a strange flavor, not exactly sweet. I believe that the body knows if something is good for you or not (besides reading the label), and I believe that my body is telling me not to use Stevia. I purchased a very large box of Stevia and am now struggling with whether I should give it away, or toss it. Splenda (which may not be safe either), has a much better flavor.

Anonymous

05/10/2015 - 11:38am

Personally I think more studies need to be done on Stevia extracts; the FDA has done numerous studies on other low or no cal sweeteners. Labeling Stevia as a natural sweetener is not entirely true, it has been modified to extract the bitter aftertaste. Until now it has been labelled as a GRAS product and as a result has not been tested by the FDA. I am proceeding with caution.

Anonymous

05/03/2015 - 10:29pm

Have to laugh at some of the comments on here. I really worry about the lay person's understanding of 'harm'. The article suggests stevia was demonstrated to be harmful.....in terms of affecting fertility and genetic mutation. The comments from some are "it's a natural product" and "I've used it for years with no problems", which are so absurdly ridiculous it terrifying. Firstly, a scientific study compares a population of people and determines whether they is a high enough statistical significance to link cause to effect. Often that shows that a small percentage of people which have taken the 'variable' (in this case stevia) have had a negative outcome. Of course not 100% experience it otherwise it would be so completely obvious that you probably wouldn't have needed the study in the first place because a public health alert would've been raised. Secondly, "a natural product" is nonsense....most medications are made from "natural products", they are synthetic in that they combine a number of elements in was not found naturally, but each component is natural all the same. Vitamins are natural products.....but too much can be harmful. Finally, I've taken it for years without problems......how exactly does a genetic mutation make you feel? How would you know?
To surmise the message in this article, Stevia is not proven to be safe and in some may have the potential to cause harm. In the products the FDA have approved, they did not follow robust testing methods and as such should be treated with caution.

Anonymous

04/25/2015 - 5:18am

i bought the stevia drops from whole foods. says use 4 drops per serving but it did not sweeten my drinkmimused 16 drops and it was medium sweet am i the only one feeling this way ibreturned the proiduct

Anonymous

04/24/2015 - 9:33pm

i never try stevia witch is the better on taste ,?,liquid form or what?

Anonymous

03/31/2015 - 1:20pm

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