Disease Proof

Stevia Warning

Ever heard of Stevia? I hadn’t until I read Eat to Live. Here’s what Dr. Fuhrman says about it:
Many health gurus recommend substituting Stevia in place of artificial sweeteners. Stevia is natural and its use is permitted in Japan and other countries. Despite its widespread use, there is a surprising lack of human clinical trials evaluating its safety. Unlike with saccharin, no evidence has been reported that stevioside and its metabolites are carcinogenic. However, animal reports of nephrotoxicity do exist, which suggest that Stevia is likely safer than the other sweeteners, but not entirely without risk.1 The extent of risk is unknown at this time.
In general, Dr. Fuhrman’s not a big fan of artificial sweeteners. More from Eat to Live:
This is a controversial subject because much of the research documenting the so-called safety of aspartame was financed by the aspartame industry, and a huge amount of political and monetary pressure led to eventual FDA approval. My opinion is that the possible dangers of aspartame are still unknown. Utilizing such artificial products is gambling with your health. Aspartame also exposes us to a methyl ester that may have toxic effects. I recommend playing it safe and sticking to natural foods.
Maybe that’s why the FDA warned food-maker Hain about its overuse of Stevia. Reuters reports:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to Hain dated August 17 calling the herb, a natural sweetener made from a South American herb called stevia, "an unsafe food additive." The agency released the letter on its Web site on Tuesday.

Stevia is being eyed by big beverage makers looking for new low-calorie sweeteners. In May, Coca-Cola Co and Cargill Inc said they would work together to market the new sweetener, despite lack of FDA approval. Stevia has been approved in a dozen other countries including Japan, China and Brazil.

The FDA letter said that although it has received requests to use stevia in food, "data and information necessary to support the safe use have been lacking."
I got to side with the FDA on this one—how about you?
1. Toskulkao, C., et al. 1997. Acute toxicity of stevioside, a natural sweetener, and its metabolite, steviol, in several animal species, Drug Chem. Toxicol. 20 (31): 31-44.
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Comments (10) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Kirsten - September 20, 2007 1:36 PM

I forget--what about maple syrup? Honey? These are quite obviously refined foods, but how does the good doctor feel about using these in limited quantities? Are they comparable to sugar or evaporated cane juice?
We've basically embraced blending up dates to sweeten baked goods, including loaf bread, and it seems to work pretty deliciously!

rick - September 20, 2007 5:36 PM

I just read your article on "stevia". I don't use it but I use to recommend it to my customers as I work in a vitamin retail store. But recently I was reading a book called the "The gladiator diet" and the author states that stevia when taken by men reduces the size of their balls and their testosterone drops by 34%. I just could not believe what I read. Who would think that a natural supplement could do that. Her book is heavily backed by research so I assume she must have gotten it from somewhere. I will definitely not recommend it to my male customers from now on. I guess just because it is natural doesn't mean it is good to take.

Kyle Key - September 20, 2007 7:23 PM

So do you also side with the FDA in terms of their continued pesticide usage recommendations, and the oh-so-healthy "food pyramid"?

The FDA received an letter (frequently speculate to have come from one of the large artificial sweetener manufacturers) urging them to not allow Stevia for sale as a food additive (it can only be sold as a dietary supplement.) Contrary to their own policy of disclosing the sources of such letters, they've yet to do so.

Stevia's been used in Japan for decades without a single incident of a negative consequence.

Neal - September 20, 2007 9:45 PM

Madness. Too much research out there and too many people with time to nitpick. On this stevia issue, the lesser of many evils applies on this one. Using stevia as a sweetener has clear advantages over other sweeteners for diabetics at least. Even Dr. Furhman's eating plan has flaws despite it really being the best around, this applies specifically to Type 1 diabetics where even the good carbs Fruits & Veggies as advised in ETL will not be adequate to prevent moderate glucose excursions, which while in the short term may yield decent HbA1cs will eventually lead to complications over many years of average glycation.

Casey - May 21, 2008 5:13 PM

Saw this news article today. Appears recent testing has been done on the safety of Stevia. An independent panel of scientists has awarded the company’s SweetLeaf® Brand Stevia self-affirmed GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status pursuant to federal regulations. The review, conducted by GRAS Associates, a leading consulting firm for the food industry headed by two former senior scientists at FDA’s GRAS review branch, involved an extensive review of published research and toxicology studies as well as international standards for the safe use of Stevia in food. FDA regulations allow companies to independently determine through a self-affirmation process that an ingredient is generally recognized as safe by qualified experts. Wisdom is confident that it has satisfied this standard through the work conducted by GRAS Associates.

Diane Haavind - August 1, 2008 10:23 PM

Is there reported linking of stevia and candida?

karen - September 16, 2008 9:30 AM

you know, whats wrong with us humans?
why do we need anything sweet at all?
why can't we go back to home grown and the only sugar we get comes off a tree?
If I have to buy soil and make above the ground garden and add menerals. we would be better off. Green houses is what we need. And someone to make a sell them at a reasonable price so all family's can take care of there own. Thats going green! That would take care of the stores plastic bags issues. grow your own or if you can't , buy freash food from those who can do it. maybe in a perfect world.

Cat - July 4, 2010 9:09 PM

Bottom Line: Can the doctor suggest the least evil sweetener to use in tea, cooking, and baking? Thank you.

Dave - June 3, 2011 5:42 PM

I noticed when taking stevia that I become excessively fatigued, and my muscles become weaker, lips become redder (not sure why) and muscles even begin to ache and run out of energy faster. I noticed it after using stevia for a while, then stopped. After I became healthy feeling again I took Stevia some more, and it did the same thing again to me. Now I drink Xylitol and have no major side effects from that, still trying to get over my stevia fatigue though. The first time I tried Stevia and developed this fatigue I didn't link it to the Stevia, so I kept drinking it in my coffee and it became worse and worse until I nearly was going comatose. I couldn't get out of bed, my mind was so tired, I could not move. Everyone's body is different, maybe some react this way and others do not.

Tammy Smith - December 26, 2011 4:12 PM

Just wondering when the FDA approved this additive. I have heard it advertised in various foods and recently had a sample of a new SOBE line of drinks advertising "no artificial sweeteners" and 0 calories that included it in the ingredients. Watch out what you are drinking. If it sounds to good to be true, it usually is.

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