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

Have you heard that stevia might be bad for you? That is could cause all sorts of problems like infertility? What's the STRAIGHT truth? This post covers all the concerns and gets down to the real truth behind stevia being safe or not!

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.

We use powdered stevia extract, and I’ve even figured out a way to make Homemade Liquid Stevia Drops.

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.

Have you heard that stevia might be bad for you? That is could cause all sorts of problems like infertility? What's the STRAIGHT truth? This post covers all the concerns and gets down to the real truth behind stevia being safe or not!

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?

These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom.

Comments

    Speak Your Mind

    *

  1. Hi,

    Thank You for your post! really appreciate it!

    I would like to ask you if this brand contains any fillers? Is it a pure stevia extract?

    http://theorganicgrocer.com/browse/product-detail/2210/organic-stevia-200g-cannister

    Thanks!:)

  2. Thank you for this informative and interesting article! Thank you for posting all your research and findings.
    I agree it is excellent. I was avoiding Stevia because I am hypoglycemic with adrenal issues but Stevia seems to be in everything healthy now. I will be careful but am happy to be able to enjoy healthy products again. Bless you.

  3. Great post. I have read that is not for human consumption in Europe. Have your heard that or done any research on it? Thanks for all your hard work in researching stevia.

  4. I was researching Stevia to see if there is new info on safety ….and guess who I found? ; ) great info! (This is Heidi from church )

    Wonder if the Trader Joes stevia is healthy….

    • Hi there!! Fun to hear from you! I tried calling Trader Joe’s about their stevia, but they weren’t answering at headquarters. I think I called before, but not sure so I’ll try again! I’ll let you know. They do have 1 pure and 1 with additives. I don’t buy the 1 w/ additives b/c it has a dairy ingredient and my oldest is deathly allergic to dairy. Hope that’s a little helpful :).

    • I bought Trader Joe’s stevia drops – I believe no additives – and they make the skin on my throat itch. But THM stevia doesn’t!! Not sure why….

      • Weird!!! I do know that one of their stevia powders has milk sugar in it so be careful. I wonder if that could be it – cross contamination? I would call them.

  5. So many ads on your blog it keeps crashing 🙁

    • Oh – no. I have never heard that. Is your browser up to date? What browser are you using? In fact, we removed a set of ads this past month b/c I found them to be annoying. Thanks for any information you can give. If you can email me at wholenewmom {at} gmail {dot} com I can perhaps figure this out for you.

    • Hello Pam. I just tried to email you but you apparently left an incorrect email. The email was returned to me :(.

  6. Did you find anything on their claims of causing abdominal fat? As well as people with immune deficiencies like I do are more in danger than others using Stevia on a daily basis?

    http://simplerootswellness.com/stevia-side-effects-and-why-our-family-quit/

    • I looked into this very extensively. I didn’t see this post talking about immune deficiencies. Where did you see that? One thing I see is in this post there is a quote from a nutritionist and the information on stevia isn’t on her site anymore. I did even more reading today and didn’t find anything that was convincing. It appears to me that different people react differently and if anything stevia works against insulin resistance. I hope that helps.

  7. Hi there, I have a question. Ok apparently Stevia is good for diabetics who want to lower blood sugar. My husband is the type of diabetic that pees his weight off. He has lost a total of 48pounds since he was diagnosed. I have him on a low carb diet. but I swear he craves sweets. He takes The pills and insulin shots just to keep his blood sugar near 200. Since I have to feed him 6meals a day just to keep his current weight of 130 on him. And the doctor has told me to put weight back on him, would stevia be better to use to help me control carb intake, but not lead to weight loss? Thanks I Loved your article. Sharon

    • Hi there. I think that the weight loss part of the diabetes is due to the mismanaged blood sugar so I would think that he has that problem still from what you are saying. In any case, it is, in my non medical opinion, the best low carb sweetener you can use.

  8. Adrienne,
    Great information, as always. I keep coming back to your site anytime I need info. I have been using NOW Better Stevia (organic) lately, and am happy with it. But wondering if you have ever come to a conclusion on the BEST stevia out? I have heard some people say Sweet Leaf is the best, but would love to hear where you are on this now.
    Thanks!

    • I am still trying – just got a new one about 3 days ago. I don’t really care for this one. Hoping to get working on this again asap. Thanks for the kind words!

  9. Lovely post. I have recently been reading up on many natural recipes and time after time see stevia as an ingredient. I do remember reading years ago about how stevia was a carcinogen, but after reading this post, I’m glad to see it’s caused from additives in certain brands rather than stevia itself.

    Since writing this post, have you come across any particularly worthwhile brands? I would love to go into stevia use knowing I’m buying something good rather than testing my luck.

  10. Christy Payne says:

    I’m not sure if I missed it, but do you have a list of the resources you used?

  11. There is a great brand of granulated stevia that Sprouts markets carry. It is called Sweet Leaf. I recommend it for granulated varieties!

  12. Gloria Cole says:

    http://empoweredsustenance.com/is-stevia-bad-for-you/ I was just sent one of those blogs debunking stevia. No references, no citations of research. From my experience as a diabetic (now A1c 5.4) what she says about glycogen and about thyroid is false. After years on stevia, I do not have low thyroid, in fact I am struggling with hyperthyroid, and my diabetes is pretty much gone except for high morning blood sugars, i.e. excessive glycogen, not low glycogen. Good luck to every body. And I would say if manufactured stevia is giving you trouble, grow your own.

  13. Diane Pitts says:

    Another thought. The Grower Exchange sells Stevia plants for $4.95. The reviews for seeds mentioned the difficulty with germination. For about $34 will receive four plants including shipping. By placing the picked leaves in the sun for about 12 hours or using a food dehydrator, one can make the extract! Have not tried yet, but will. Basically, a recipe I found online said to take a cup of green leaves washed, dry them as stated above, and cover the leaves with organic vodka for 24 hours. Strain out the leaves and then heat (but do not boil) out the alcohol , then bottle it,. It says it will last 90 days in the refrigerator. What can be safer and healthier than making one’s own extract. In the time it takes to research a safe brand, one can make a homemade version. Sorry, lost the site so I can’t give credit to the originator of the recipe. Found it some time ago.

  14. Congratulations on making the same defense arguments that were made about aspartame, sucralose and also monosodium glutomate back in the 80’s.

    • Hello John. If you would like to cite the claims that were made then I will be glad to deal with them in comparison to my post. Also if you have something in my post that you disagree with, please address it or them directly. Thank you. I think I based my post on sound science.

  15. I would like to see links to randomized, long-term studies showing stevia to be entirely safe. Are there any? (Beyond ones paid for by stevia producers/etc., though hey, a study is a study, right? Ahem. Right.)

  16. 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.
    MORE DETAILED REQUIRED PLEASE.I am afraid of “cause mutations and even cancer.”

    • Hello there.

      I did talk about this in my post – perhaps you missed it? I was worried about that as well. Let me know if I can be of further help.

  17. Not really sure why people are attacking you, but we can all do our own research and decide whether we want to use stevia or not. You were nice enough to do it for us and people are complaining. I appreciate it, so thank you!

    • Thank you!!! This took hours and hours and I am confident using it. You are right – everyone else can decide what they are comfortable with.

    • AMEN!! Everyone wants someone else to do research for them and then when it doesn’t fit them they attack… Do you’re own research like Hollie said….. Thanks, Andrienne!

      • *your

      • Thanks so much, Spencer. There are some saying stevia regulates blood sugar and of course, anyone claiming it gives them hypoglycemic could have made another change they aren’t aware of (I’ve done that before) or possibly was using a stevia blend.

  18. I was using sweetleaf powdered stevia. The one that has that super tiny spoonful per serving. But then one day noticed they started putting maltodexterin in it. Now I buy sweetleaf organic stevia extract. No other ingredients. But now I’m wondering if they use chemicals in making it. Do you know?

    My big question though, something I’ve recently started thinking about is when making my flavored liquid stevia. I use caramel in coffee, root beer in water, and lemon and raspberry in tea. My kids use it too. I was just wondering if these extracts can be harmful in the amounts used in the liquid stevia if you use it several (I mean like 6-10 times) a day. What do you think?

    • I think you would have to call the manufacturer and ask. I recently found that they sometimes use glyphosate to ripen stevia so we are going to be done w/ non organic stevia unless the manufacturer can assure me that they didn’t use it on theirs. Interesting you ask about liquid stevia. We do the same thing. I’m not concerned according to the research that I did. But I don’t know everything :). In fact I will be doing a post on our new uses for the liquid stevias. Are you making your own — like this? http://wholenewmom.com/whole-new-budget/homemade-vanilla-liquid-stevia-extract/

  19. Thanks so much for your post and research. I too have been using stevia for several years. I have my own plant and dry the leaves then grind them into a powder. I can make a liquid sweetener from it. I am seeing pages on AIP/Paleo saying to exclude stevia for good. I don’t think I could do that.

    • You are so welcome. So is the home grown stevia bitter? I have a hard time w/ the green stevia. I’d have a rough time giving it up too.

      • Hi Adrienne, it can be if you overdo it, but I use a small amount on the tip of my teaspoon or use the quickly brewed stevia liquid. I have no problem at all with the taste. My husband (fusspot lol) says he notices an after taste. He isn’t as health conscious as me.

  20. Peter Ramsey says:

    No.. I had no health issues in my 72 yrs previously, I substituted stevia for a month & got dangerously low blood pressure to the point I was blacking out.. Had to stop driving… back on a normal diet within a couple of weeks was fine again… that was over a year ago… Still in perfect health.

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