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.I got to side with the FDA on this one—how about you?
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."
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.