Is Stevia Good Or Bad? Americans have discovered now sugar substitutes like Stevia sweeteners that have no calories and can reduce their daily intake of added sugars. Stevia sweeteners are 200-350 times sweeter as compared to table sugar, therefore they are required in very minute amounts. Nowadays,
Stevia sweeteners are being used in canned fruits, beverages, dairy products, condiments, and bakery products. There are many products available in the market like Pure Via, Sweet leaf, Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, and Enliten.
All Stevia sweeteners are extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant which is an herbal shrub found in South America. For hundreds of years, Steviol glycosides extracted from its leaves are being marketed as a dietary supplement.
How does it work inside the body?
After consumption, Steviol glycosides do not get absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Gut microbes in the colon break glucose molecules from it and use them as an energy source while the remaining backbone of Steviol is transported to the liver through the portal vein where it gets metabolized and excreted through urine1.
Pros of using Stevia Sweeteners:
- High-purity Steviol glycosides are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) within an Acceptable Daily Intake level (ADI). For Stevia sweeteners, the ADI level is 4 mg/kg/ body/ day2.
- Stevia sweeteners can be added safely in foods and beverages for children suffering from type 1 diabetes3. They do not increase the risk of the development of dental caries. But Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) do not recommend the use of sweeteners in children younger than 2 years of age.
- According to the recommendation of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the consumption of Stevia within the limit of ADI is safe for pregnant and lactating females4.
- Stevia sweeteners are also recommended for the production of foods and beverages for people with diabetes to satisfy their desire for sweetness while controlling their intake of carbohydrates. Studies have shown that the consumption of Stevia sweeteners does not increase blood glucose levels in humans. However, some studies have also indicated that consumption of low-calorie sweeteners like Stevia can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes but it is not proved in observational studies5.
Cons of using Stevia Sweeteners:
According to a study performed by toxicologists at UCLA, Stevia consumption for a long time can cause cancer. During the study, they observed that consumption of stevioside can cause chromosomal damage, genetic mutations, and breakage in DNA6.
These changes can cause cancer development, although it has not been studied in animal models yet. In past, there were rumors related to fertility issues and diabetes worsening after consumption of Stevia, but the latest studies have negated those rumors and can improve glucose tolerance by induction of insulin production from the pancreas.
Although more than 40, 000 clinical studies have been performed to study the effect of Stevia, no long-term study has been performed on humans to study the use of Stevia for the Long- term and its impact on the human body.
Due to its natural origin and sweetness, Stevia sweeteners are popular sugar substitutes these days. Due to the lack of data available regarding the long-term use of Stevia, it is possible that it can cause a detrimental impact on human health if consumed in large quantities. However, it will safe to say that Stevia is an exceptional natural plant-based sugar substitute when used in a moderate amount.
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- Magnuson BA, Carakostas MC, Moore NH, Poulos SP, Renwick, AG. Biological fate of low-calorie sweeteners. Nutr Rev. 2016 Nov; 74(11):670-689.
- Renwick AG. Safety factors and establishment of acceptable daily intakes. Food Addit Contam. 1991 Mar-Apr; 8(2):135-49.
- Dewinter L, Casteels K, Corthouts K, Van de Kerckhove K, Van der Vaerent K, Vanmeerbeeck K, Matthys C. Dietary intake of non-nutritive sweeteners in type 1 diabetes mellitus children. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2016; 33(1):19-26.
- Curry LL, Roberts A, Brown N. Rebaudioside A: two-generation reproductive toxicity study in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Jul; 46 Suppl 7:S21-30.
- Ajami M, Seyfi M, Abdollah Pouri Hosseini F, Naseri P, Velayati A, Mahmoudnia F, Zahedirad M, Hajifaraji M. Effects of stevia on glycemic and lipid profile of type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized controlled trial. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2020 Mar-Apr; 10(2):118-127.
- Sylvetsky AC, Rother KI. Nonnutritive sweeteners in weight management and chronic disease: a review. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018 Apr; 26(4):635-640.
- Goyal, S.K., Samsher and Goyal, R.K. (2010). Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: A review. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 61, 1, 1-10.
Kobylewski, S. and Eckhert, C.D. (2008). Toxicology of rabaudioside A: A review. Retrieved July 20, 2011.