Is Stevia a Danger to Your Health? The TRUTH Comes Out

Is Stevia Safe? Is Stevia Bad for You? The TRUTH Comes Out in this post.

I use stevia.  A lot.

Perhaps you, like me, have been reading posts about stevia and wondering:

“Is Stevia Safe?”

“Is Stevia Bad for You?”

I know I have. I’ve been using stevia for a long time – ever since I knew I had candida.

It’s a super sweet sweetener that doesn’t feed candida, so it’s used by many who want to have something sweet without the bad “side effects” of sugar.

I wrote quite a bit about stevia in this post – Stevia – What it Is and How to Use It” but essentially, stevia:

– doesn’t feed candida
may help with blood sugar regulation
– doesn’t cause caries (tooth decay)
– may reduce blood pressure when it is too high
– is calorie free

So what’s not to love?

Well, after literally YEARS of using stevia, imagine my fear when I started reading post after post on the internet by other whole foodies either stating that they’d given up using stevia, or stating why they never used it in the first place, or claiming all sorts of problems with this herb.

I was shooting emails back and forth with other sugar-free bloggers (including one of my faves – Ricki Heller) about studies we’d found on the internet appearing to highlight issues with my “sweetener of choice”.

It’s pretty petrifying when you hear that something you and your family have been using for years might have serious health consequences. I just had to figure it out because I was for sure not going to be eating something that was likely or surely going to wreck my health.

So into the research I dove.  Head first.

It took a long time, but today I am going to go through the claims of the other bloggers one by one so that you can see the conclusion that I came to and why.

Following is a list of the claims that others have made against stevia.

I’ll go through them one by one (hopefully I didn’t miss any) so you can see whether or not you think they are a problem.

Is Stevia Safe?  Claims Against Stevia

– it can cause infertility
– has a hormonal structure
– it can act as a mutagen and cause cancer
– it taxes the adrenals
– hormone issues
– hypoglycemia
– lowers blood pressure
– unsavory (dangerous) additives
– high in oxalates
– tastes bitter YIKES!!!!!

Before you go panicking and throw your stevia in the garbage, read on.

Here’s where I need to start setting the record straight.

Is Stevia Safe? Is Stevia Bad for You? The TRUTH Comes Out in this post.

Claims Against and the Truth About Stevia

{Please note that the following is not medical advice. I am not a physician. Please consult with your physician prior to changing your diet or supplement regimen.  This is for entertainment purposes only.  Sorry – had to get that disclaimer in there, folks!  There might be an affiliate link or 2 included as well and if you click on one and make a purchase I might make a commission. Your support is very much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running.}

1.  Stevia is often mixed with additives.

Stevia sold in stores and online is sometimes mixed with fillers and flavor enhancers like:
– maltodextrin
– glycerine (I use this for low carb baking anyway and don’t really have a problem with it as long as it’s not made from GMO soy)
– dextrose
– cellulose
– erythritol (I have mixed feelings on this one)
– the ubiquitous undisclosed “natural flavors”

I’m sorry but this is simply a ridiculous argument.

While bloggers who make this point are correct to point out that there are often unsavory things added to stevia, this is the equivalent of saying that we shouldn’t eat meat because it’s often mixed with nitrates, the cows are often fed antibiotics or it is made into hotdogs.

Just.Buy.Stevia.That.Isn’t.Mixed.With.Anything.Else.

That would be Pure Stevia Extract.

Like I said, however, I don’t really have a problem with glycerine and often I have called companies that have “natural flavors” on their label only to find that their flavorings were completely natural extracts only. So sometimes the “natural flavors” aren’t so scary after all and it isn’t necessarily a problem to buy stevia with additional ingredients – just do your homework.

Pay attention to the labels on the stevia you are considering buying.  And the price. If the price looks too good to be true, chances are you are getting a stevia with fillers. On to the next argument.

2.  Stevia is bad because it tastes bitter.

Yes, some stevia is sub par.

Some is just bad and even pretty horrendous-tasting. But if you do your research, you can find great tasting stevia.

I have always loved NuNaturals, but I am now possibly on the hunt for a replacement as they’ve changed their formula. It’s still pretty good but I have a thing about finding “the best” (like with essential oils). Of course, if you use too much stevia in baked goods and the like, you just might get a bitter aftertaste, but there are ways around that.

If you use less, or use stevia with other sweeteners, you can by and large avoid that problem.

Check out these posts for more info:
Stevia – What it Is and How to Use It
6 Tips to Really Like Stevia – This one is written by a former stevia hater and has some GREAT tips for avoiding the bitter aftertaste.

I’m working on choosing some more brands to recommend to you – but it’s taking awhile.  Hang in there!

3. Stevia Causes Adrenal Problems

The argument here is that:
-you eat stevia
– your body expects glucose because it tastes something sweet
– your body lowers blood sugar (causing hypoglycemia) since it is clearing the way for glucose -your body sends cortisol and adrenaline to create sugar from your tissues. Thus you are causing stress on the adrenals by eating stevia.

I couldn’t find any research to back this up. All I can say is that my adrenal issues are far better now after years of eating stevia than they were when I was eating sugar.

Plus there are plenty of places where folks recommend stevia over and above sugar and higher glycemic sweeteners in order to heal adrenal issues including here and here.

I just don’t see enough evidence of this for it to merit giving up stevia.  I do think that perhaps one could just not drink non caloric drinks with only stevia and make sure that stevia is consumed with other calories to mitigate any possible effect.

One important thing to note is that those who make this claim appear to be of the mindset that candida is not caused or aggravated by sugar consumption. I beg to differ.

I agree that candida is very complex but yeast feeds off of sugar. Just bake some homemade bread to see how it works and it’s plain as day.

4. Stevia Can Cause Hypoglycemia

Another concern brought up about stevia is that is causes hypoglycemia.  This is tied into the adrenal issue cited above.

Let me tell you this.  I had hypoglycemia (I diagnosed myself — my doctor missed it) and I had it bad.

I went completely off sugar at that point and started eating a bunch of stevia.  More than I ever had before.

My hypoglycemia is gone.

Totally reversed.

Now, does that mean someone else couldn’t have an odd reaction to stevia that might cause hypoglycemia?  Of course, it doesn’t mean that. If you are concerned, check your blood sugar after consuming stevia.  Everyone is different.

5. Stevia Causes Infertility and Miscarriages

One of the main concerns about stevia is that it affects fertility.

There is information floating around the internet that there are studies showing that stevia caused infertility in rats, and there’s also talk that stevia has been used in Paraguay for contraception.

Well, we can put this issue to rest. There have been several studies showing contraception issues with stevia, but they have all been debunked.

Take my word for it, or click through here to read a very very thorough article, with appropriate sourcing that addresses this issue completely.  Source

Of course, I completely agree with the author of the above-referenced post. If you think stevia is causing issues with your fertility, stop using it. Just the stress of that questioning might be enough to cause issues for you.

6.  Stevia Doesn’t Support Glycogen Synthesis

The argument here is that your body needs glucose to function but basically this is the same argument of the hypoglycemia and adrenal issues.

However, in one post the additional argument was made that your body needs glycogen to convert inactive thyroid hormone T4 into active thyroid hormone T3.

The thinking here is that if you are using stevia instead of fruit and natural sugars, then you won’t have sufficient glycogen. I don’t know enough about this but I have been doing a lot of reading about the effects of low carb diets on thyroid and adrenal health and I think it’s worth thinking about.

Basically, however, I don’t think that this argument necessitates giving up stevia, but it does mean that we ought to consider making sure that we have sufficient carbs in our diets.  This post from Wellness Mama and this one from Chris Kresser go into great depth regarding these low carb / adrenal / thyroid issues.

And for another p

7.  Stevia is really a hormone is disguise

Several bloggers mentioned that stevia is synthesized in the same pathway as 2 plant hormones, and that it ends up being structurally similar to those hormones.

Again, this is something that I could not find anything about on the internet.  And just because something is synthesized in the same way or is structurally similar to hormones, that doesn’t mean it is a hormone. Take NaCl for example.

Salt is fine to eat and we sprinkle it on food all the time. HCl, however, is stomach acid and we would do damage to ourselves if we sprinkled it on our food.  (I take HCl as a dietary supplement as mentioned here, but you would cause serious damage to your teeth and esophagus if you sprinkled it on your food.

Just because something is similar to something else doesn’t mean that it has the same qualities as that thing. I did, however, find this very detailed article on stevia that seems to state that it isn’t that stevia is synthesized in the same way as gibberellin and kaurene but that the plant is making kaurene and can either make gibberellin or stevia.

So that puts this argument into question for me. I haven’t dug into this enough, but I do think I feel at peace enough to not worry about it.

8.  Stevia is High in Oxalates

One of the bloggers initially wrote about stevia being high in oxalates, but she later removed that from her blog post.

However, since it was initially there, I am going to address it. Oxalates are naturally-occurring substances in foods, but some people are very concerned about reducing them in their diet.

Those with kidney stones, hypercalciuria, etc. I personally know some bloggers who are very concerned about oxalates so I looked into this. My thinking is this. Even if stevia were high in oxalates, the amount of stevia used is so small that it doesn’t amount to much and should not be a concern since oxalates are everywhere.

For more on oxalates, read this article. Now – just when you thought you’d heard enough, to make things a little more interesting, I am going to throw 2 more arguments into the ring:

9.  Stevia Can Cause Mutagenic Reactions and Cancer

I read in several places that stevia can cause mutations and even cancer. Scary stuff.

Thankfully, one of the posts on stevia did clarify that the studies that appeared to demonstrate these risks were in the minority and that the amounts of stevia fed to subjects were quite high so they are typically discarded in discussions questioning stevia’s safety.

This study  is one showing that stevia consumption does not cause genetic problems.  From the study:

these substances do not pose a risk of genetic damage following human consumption.

Glad to hear it.

10.  Stevia Can Cause Allergic Reactions

I thought for a period of time that I was allergic to stevia.

I would use it and thought I was having sinus and eye symptoms from it. Over time I did a bunch of trials and errors and finally came to the conclusion that I am not allergic to it.

Boy, was I thrilled. Please do note that stevia is related to daisies, chrysanthemums, ragweed or marigolds.

It’s possible that if you are allergic to these plants that you might have a cross-reaction to stevia.

But that is not the case for everyone and I am proof positive of that. Bottom Line – Anyone can be allergic to anything.

Remember The Boy in the Plastic Bubble?

You can either avoid the food or address internal issues that are causing your immune system to overreact, or both. But just because stevia might cause allergies in some is not reason to avoid it.  Make sure you read the next section which addresses another possible cause for reactions to stevia.

11.  Stevia is Sometimes Processed with Chemicals

I didn’t see this on any other blogs, but I will bring this into the ring myself.

Some stevia producers use chemicals to product their stevia extract. For that reason, I only choose stevia from companies that do not use chemicals for processing their pure stevia extract. If you are having reactions to stevia, you might wish to contact the manufacturer to see how they process their stevia.

12.  Stevia Can Cause You to Eat More Sweets

A reader commented that I should add this to the list – that sweeteners like stevia can cause your body to expect glucose and therefore you end up craving and eating more as a result.  Apparently this happens particularly in those who are sugar-sensitive.

This would apply to all low carb sweeteners and not just stevia – the same with many of the negative claims here. I have read about this before but I haven’t experienced this.  In fact, I think I crave sweets more and eat more if I eat the “real sugars”.

Conclusion

I think that there are numerous benefits to using stevia and I also think that the concerns are largely unfounded. For those of us struggling with candida, blood sugar issues (like diabetes or insulin resistance) or trying to eat a low carb diet, I think there is likely no better thing to put in your cuppa. Or even bake with. Because life without brownies is hard, right?

Now that you are likely feeling better about stevia, again, here are some helpful posts:

1.  Stevia – What It Is and How to Use It

2.  6 Tips to Really LOVE Stevia

3.  Homemade Liquid Stevia Drops

What do YOU think? Do you use stevia? Will you keep using it?

Shared at Real Food ForagerWe Are that Family3 Boys and a DogKelly the Kitchen Kop, The Prairie Homestead, and The Nourishing Gourmet.

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  1. No, I do not use Stevia. I have read and heard many negative things about it that are too numerous to mention
    and I do not remember all the details. The main one that sticks in my mind is “cancer causing”. At one time years ago, I was the lady handing out samples of the “stevia sweetened” Koolaid at a grocery store. After researching, I decided it was not a substance I ever wanted to have anything to do with.. It is hard to know who to believe, so I am sticking with raw honey.

    • Hi Jo – thanks for writing. Did you not think that any of my “safety claims” were warranted? I’d love to hear what you think. I really worked hard to dig up the information on this herb and think it’s fine. Not trying to convince you but wondering what you thought after reading the post. Thanks! I wish I could have raw honey but with candida issues, I just can’t handle much of it.

    • I do appreciate all the research that you have done on the safety of stevia. But, I believe there may be more research to be done before we will have a complete picture. I still prefer raw honey as a safer choice that we have much knowledge of. As everything, honey must be in moderation in order to be healthy.

      • Thanks. I hear you. I just think that it appears to me (and to many others) that it’s the sugar industry that is putting out some of this bad information about stevia. Have you seen information about not eating heated honey? I haven’t been able to figure it out but it does appear to be problematic.

        • Yes, I am aware that heating honey does affect it. From what I have read
          and my husband tells me (he kept a few hives when he was a teenager), when
          honey is heated to too high a temperature (not sure how high), enzymes are
          destroyed and some of the health giving properties of the honey are
          destroyed. Nothing I have read says it would be toxic, just that the
          medicinal qualities would not be as good. It can be heated to liquify it
          if it develops sugar crystals, just not very much. And reading yet another
          report tonight, I read that the crystalizing of some honey is caused by
          certain types of flowers that the bees use to make the honey. Of course, I
          have not done any extensive research, but I have read nothing that would
          make me want to question eating honey. I buy mine raw from a local
          farmer’s market.

  2. Hi! I am enjoying reading your blog today. I began with your essential oil series (whew! great job!) and just just kept on reading for the the past two hours. Thank you for your honesty as you process your research and share information for us. I just read the post on stevia, and as I have been hot/cold/neutral on stevia this past year, I think perhaps you might be interested in Sarah Ballanytyne’s books and her blog ThePaleoMom. Her post on stevia went up the day after I bought 3 different bottles of liquid stevia to replace all other forms of sweetener in our home. Instead of continuing to use the stevia, (tummys upset), I chose to greatly reduce sweeteners period. What made me most unsure of stevia was the research that hasn’t been done to-date to confirm safety, and the concern that with so many chemicals mimicking and disrupting our hormones and our chemistry and our health…well, I rarely use it now, and only occasionally use coconut sugar, raw honey or dates (i know, candida..dang). I research and study daily and often sputter with conflicting information and what I call the ‘good today/uh-oh maybe not tomorrow’ process of searching for health and healing. Anyway – I am in no way expressing a strong opinion here – or any issue with your research – just wanting to share some thoughts while I’m processing too. Thank you for a wonderful blog and keep up the awesome research!

    • Hi Dale -Thanks for the kind words!

      I do follow Sarah to some degree (I am super busy). So you are saying that you are thinking that the stevia is upsetting your stomach? That’s interesting. May I ask what brand?

      I do think that I addressed her concerns in the post. I haven’t seen anything conclusive about the hormones or the DNA and such – it seems to me that a lot of people write about it but I don’t see any convincing data. What do you think? Thanks so much!

      • Hi! Thank you for your response. The brand is SweetLeaf Sweet Drops, Chocolate (refrigerate after opening).. I didn’t use much, just 2 drops, but by day 3 there seemed to be no doubt about it. So I took a break and then I tried it again. Yup. I still have the product and may try it again. So what do I think? Well, it was the inconclusiveness and the lack of study I read about, along with the reaction we were having to the stevia that caused me to back away from using it. I had used a powdered brand in the past but not often, and was looking for a brand that had not been ‘monkeyed’ with and after blog-zooming the topic, I chose SweetLeaf. I returned the other two un-opened bottles (original & vanilla) so the chocolate is the only liquid I have tried. I also found Sarah’s blog and book after nearly a year of escalating research frustration and cabinets full of supplements and food products I no longer wanted to consume. So many things fell into place for me when I read her book, I suppose when I read the stevia information I felt unsure and simply chose to table using it until I found more info. Reading your post today put the subject back on the table for me. So no digestive issues with it? Thank you!

        • Sure thing. So you are saying that you possibly made other changes when you stopped the stevia? I guess anyone can be allergic to anything so I am not saying it can’t happen, but typically folks would not talk about digestive issues w/ stevia. It would be xylitol or erythritol that would do that. Of course, I am not a doctor and I would say to be careful.

          So glad that otherwise you seem to be doing better!!! I would love to hear how things go.

  3. Paul Stewart says:

    Your article reads just like one would expect for someone who “might have some related links from which you might earn some money”.

    • Hi Paul – I am not sure what you are talking about. Are you insinuating that I wrote a post on stevia being not a danger to your health b/c I wanted to make affiliate links? That is totally not the case. I have been researching this for a long time as I am hoping you can tell and I had a huge burden to get this information out to the public. Thanks much.

  4. What brands would you recommend at this time?

    • I’m really not sure. I am trying about 4-5 right now. Hoping to have a real recommendation soon. I am trying Mood and Mind, Nuts.com, NuNaturals, and several others. One of them has really nice flavors but not sure on their powder yet.

  5. Thanks so much for this informative article on stevia. It is my favorite sweetener also and my family uses it daily. I truly appreciate all the time and effort you must have spent compiling this post!

  6. Thanks for writing this it’s a really good article. I run a Stevia Sweetened chocolate company and occasionally I get people outlining the concerns you address above, now I have a reference guide! :) One point which you touch on briefly is that some people ask if it doesn’t effect the blood sugar levels would you eat more of it, interestingly I think you eat less stevia than sugar. After a 50g bar most people say that’s enough whereas people eat huge sugar sweetened bars. The only slight downside of stevia in my view is that if you do eat too much, which is hard because it’s less addictive than sugar, you can feel slightly nauseous. What are your thoughts on this Adrienne?

    • You are so welcome! Thanks! I just poked around your website and your chocolate looks wonderful! I would love to try some sometime. My son is allergic to dairy so I think the dark would be the best. (I’m avoiding it as well). I never feel nauseous from stevia. I have heard of a very few people who do, but I never do. I think that typically that’s only if one is eating the stevia with fillers. Do you get nauseous?

      • I can’t say I have ever felt nauseous but it is something I have been told has happened. I sometimes wonder if certain flavours may cause it when mixed with stevia, for example it has never happened on any dark chocolate bar, only the milk ones, or is this because the is more cocoa in a dark bar? Whatever it is I find it fascinating and truly believe stevia will become mainstream because it has been popular for so long in Japan and South America that it will only be a matter of time because it truly enters the UK market. I do find though that you do not need to eat as much stevia to feel ‘satisfied’. A few squares can be enough whereas with a sugar sweetened bar can be consumed entirely without feeling full at all. If I ever have any further questions do you mind if I shoot you an email? I’ll give you the credit of course!

  7. “….this is the equivalent of saying that we shouldn’t eat meat because it’s often mixed with nitrates, the cows are often fed antibiotics or it is made into hotdogs.”

    You lost any validity right there because …you shouldn’t eat steroid, antibiotic fed, nitrate laden meat. And every single health study shows it.

    • Hi Sartasia. I don’t think you understood what I was saying.

      Saying that we shouldn’t eat stevia b/c it is often mixed with other undesirable ingredients is like saying that we shouldn’t eat meat ever since it is often filled w/ steroid, antibiotics, or nitrates. I am saying that eating quality stevia is fine and so is eating quality meat.

      Does that help? Thanks!

  8. I had no idea until today that stevia was so controversial. I was so proud of myself making pies and cobbler with stevia for a friend of mine who is diabetic and so missing desserts. It is the stevia in the raw and none of us have had any side effects. I want to be responsible and I’m going to link this article in my new post I’ll be publishing later. Thanks for the research.

  9. I have been researching this a lot. How do you determine if the Stevia you are using is extracted using chemicals? I have tried looking on their websites and I have yet to find one that says they do not use chemicals.

  10. Great post. I have more diabetic issues, I guess . I started Atkins last year. I lost a lot of weight. I usually use Splenda but have read sooo much negativity about it. It seems to be in EVERYTHING. I think it’s even in the Atkins Shakes. If anything I just want something to occasionally sweeten my tea or coffee that’s not harmful. I think I’d like to try Stevia … Hopefully its at least better than sugar and Splenda