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.
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.
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.
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
04/24/2015 - 9:33pm
i never try stevia witch is the better on taste ,?,liquid form or what?
03/31/2015 - 1:20pm
I don't suffer with upset tummies very often but I too bought the Tesco 'Healthy Living' range mint humbugs and within an hour or so was feeling bloated, nauseous and had an upset tummy. Admittedly, I did eat 2 x 3 sweets over an hour but I certainly never expected to feel so crappy. Definitely won't be buying them again!
03/19/2015 - 10:29am
@anonymous. Gluten isn't bad for you. (Unless you're allergic) Just sayin.
03/08/2015 - 7:58pm
I found this site after opening up a Yogi tea and finding that now one of the major ingredients is Stevia leaf. it was NOT labeled on the outside of the box. I have allergies triggers, most I can avoid by not consuming or inhaling them. Ie rag weed, dandelions..etc etc are fine until I ingest or INHALE,then its on. Respiratory distress, diarrhea. anxiety and panic attacks. NO THANK YOU!
So look closely at your favorite products, they're sneaking it into everything. Just like caramageen.
I guess the upside is, I will be eating even LESS processed foods like vegan ice cream. I'm loosing a product a month at this rate.
I also called Yogi teas and left a msg to have them call me about the lack of ingredients listing on their packaging. at $5.00 a box, you want to know what you are paying for.
Use your noggin and do the homework.
02/23/2015 - 3:38pm
I like Stevia! There are negatives in comments on the Inet about every sweetener out there including sugar. I am unhappy with most of them, and afraid of some of them. I have used pure Stevia for years in my coffee.
It has an aftertaste if I use a lot of it, but not in the small/single dose I use. But so do the others.
My wife can taste it and doesn't like it or any of the other artificial sweeteners. She finds you have to use some sugar in her cooking for things to cook right, but cuts the recipe quantity at least in half. I have also used products that have Stevia with other additives - like the small packets that use 'fillers' to equal a sugar packet in sweetness - yuck. I tried Zevia drinks and got gas reactions from the Erythritol additive, so stopped drinking it.
I have type 2 diabetes, and have to control my diet to stay on pills and off injections. Stevia has no observable impact on MY health, so I recommend that you try small doses of the pure form of it. Sugar and carbs are bad for me. A doctor can help you sort some things out, but the only person responsible for your health is YOU. Pay attention to your own reactions as some of the other comments here indicate.
02/17/2015 - 10:33am
I have a cast iron stomach-nothing upsets it! That was before I discovered little packs of sweets this week that tesco sell in their "healthy living" range. I bought 2 packs, sherbet lemons and mint humbugs. As I walked home I opened the pack and ate some of the lemon sweets, probably about 10 in all. An hour later at home I had terrible diarrhea. Most unusual for me. I then read the pack out of curiosity. In fairness it did state that eating the sweets in excess could have a laxative effect. I would have thought an excess would have been several packets but I then went on to read that the packet containing just 80g of sweets had infact 10 servings in it! Perhaps the warning would have been better placed on the front of the back in bold writing! . Stupidly the following day I ate a few more of the lemon sweets , this time sticking to the dose of 3 sweets to a portion. All night my stomach grumbled and churned and me feel slightly less than my normal healthy self. My daughter sat in the same room as me could hear my stomach also Don't think I will be buying more of those sweets. Maybe they would be better marketed in a chemist for people who need a helping hand to open their bowells!
02/05/2015 - 6:39am
Eat anything, drink anything, smoke, live dangerously.
But only in moderation, that's the key.
The body can and will assimilate anything in time as long as it is in small doses.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Exercise, make love, live your life, let the other guy worry about gluten free foods.
By the way, I love to make bread and I add extra gluten into the flour to get more elasticity in the dough.
ha ha ha ha
Anonymous, I bet you aren't over 40 years of age otherwise you wouldn't be laughing and acting so smart!