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Is Stevia Safe?

A. This year, a few noncaloric sweeteners made from an extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant arrived on grocery-store shelves. The stevia plant has a long history of use as a sweetener in South America. These new sweeteners—sold under brand names like Truvia and PureVia—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 regarded as safe (GRAS) ingredient.

The FDA affirmed the GRAS status, but did not change the previous ruling on stevia. “Reb A is different than whole-leaf stevia or [other] stevia extracts, which can only be sold as dietary supplements,” says FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon. “Nobody has provided the FDA with evidence that whole-leaf stevia is safe.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, believes that 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.”

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).

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COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

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!

Anonymous

02/05/2015 - 5:39am

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

Anonymous, I bet you aren't over 40 years of age otherwise you wouldn't be laughing and acting so smart!

Anonymous

02/02/2015 - 4:33pm

Loblaws sell Mango Orange which states `sweetened with Stevia Extract` and also say it is 40% less sugar.

Loblaws offers a few tricks that customers `miss`, mainly the product without a price, until the till.

G.V Williams

Anonymous

01/26/2015 - 9:14am

I've used " best stevia" from Lef.org for the last 4 years with no problems. Tastes good no after taste no side effects. Just pure stevia.

Anonymous

01/24/2015 - 1:47pm

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

01/06/2015 - 9:55pm

The commenter that said they and their past generations have used Stevia has probably used it close to or in its natural state. I believe they have had a good experience with it. But the stuff here is so refined. All I know is I feel sick when I use it. I have tried it in foods already mixed that way and bought it separate from a good company and added it myself. Either way I feel sick. Also, the after taste is something I don't care for.

Anonymous

12/30/2014 - 7:52am

Stevia should not be consumed by people that are allergic to certain plants, Dandelions for example.

Anonymous

12/23/2014 - 11:30pm

I'm not sure what people consider "pure." I was first introduced to Stevia in the early 80's. It was a very dark brown thick liquid. I thought it was pretty nasty. It left a major after taste. I am guessing that earlier Stevia was a more pure form? Now it is highly refined. I can't think that any product that has been altered should be consumed.

Anonymous

12/23/2014 - 4:35pm

For one thing Soy milk and all soy products unless organic,are probably GMO.. The FDA only tests GMO's for 90- days.. If you don't get sick after eating GMO 's in 90 days they are said to be safe. Do you know of anyone who got cancer after smoking only 90 days?? Rats in tests of GMO's have elevated rates of cancer in two year tests done outside the US. If no one has done tests on stevia products, proceed at your own risk.. Also sugar is cancer fuel. Restrict your usage as much as possible...

Anonymous

12/18/2014 - 5:58pm

It is true that there were many studies linking steviol a Reb A and other steviol glycoside building block and potential metabolite, to toxicity and cancer. It was found that steviol is not a major breakdown product during metabolism, which alleviated a lot of the FDA's concerns.

To be clear, the FDA GRAS process does not result in "approval". The sole burden of safety is placed squarely on the companies selling the ingredient. The FDA just simply has no questions at this time.

Is it safer because it is natural? I suppose the same argument could be made for cocaine or snake venom, but natural and safe are not synonymous, despite the growing popular belief to the contrary.

Anonymous

12/17/2014 - 2:32pm

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