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 agree with the writer who wrote about Kal pure stevia powder extract on all accounts. I love it! Unfortunately, Vitacost has been out of stock for some time.
06/24/2012 - 10:24am
It's not coincidence that Stevia was banned by the FDA... until Coca-Cola and PepsiCo got involved. Then, all of the sudden, it was miraculously safe to use because they finally found a way to commercialize it.
The truth is that Stevia was set to hurt the artificial sweetener industry like Splenda and Sweet-n-Low. So studies were fabricated to make it look bad... just long enough for the two biggest users of artificial sweeteners were able to carve out a market for it.
06/25/2012 - 12:38pm
I agree with coco cola guy up there
the FDA is BOUGHT AND SOLD
Marijuana was harmless until Big Pharma found out everything the 'hippies' had been saying about the beneficial properties of marijuana WERE TRUE; NOW they constantly link mass murderers to weed and say it causes people to become psychotic (so only THEY can use it and make money off of it)
I GOT SOME STEVIA POWDER
1 teaspoon 2 calories
whatever - I'm not eating the shit out of a bowl, I'm putting spoonful on my cereal, I'm not worried.
07/26/2012 - 6:08am
Again is it or isn't?!
08/10/2012 - 11:06pm
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.
08/16/2012 - 8:02am
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.
08/16/2012 - 1:13pm
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?
08/20/2012 - 4:04pm
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.
08/22/2012 - 7:00pm
Personally I add a few leaves of fresh peppermint to my tea and porridge if I want a sweeter taste :-)
08/28/2012 - 5:22am
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.