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
causes hormone issues
causes hypoglycemia
lowers blood pressure
has 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!

The Concerns 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

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  1. This was very good information . Thank you for your time & research. Check out KAL pure stevia extract . I’ve been using it for about 5 yrs and there’s no aftertaste!! I made iced tea for diabetic hubby & he was shocked that it was made with stevia. He didn’t like any other sweeteners that I had tried.

  2. Silly me! I thought “Pure Stevia Extract” meant exactly that!

    • Just like “pure” many things don’t mean much. Basically they mean there is “pure” whatever it is in the container, but there may be other things as well. 🙁

  3. michael says:

    i have been eating stevia ftr years and … I was getting more and more fatigued. I thought i had something serious and then started reading about the whole body expecting sugar thing. The day i gave up stevia my energy returned and i feel like me again. I will never touch it again

    • Sorry that happened to you. Were you using it in drinks or in recipes?

    • What I did was cut out all sugar and all sweeteners (good or bad ones) for a couple of weeks. That made me stop craving sweets. After that I only use sweeteners like stevia when a sweetener is called for. But since I no longer crave sweets it isn’t very often. You might not have a problem if it was just very occasional us. Don’t know if that’s useful or not. I lost a lot of weight after that, too even though that wasn’t my goal. I was pleasantly surprised.

  4. Bill Brainerd says:

    I have used stevia for many years. The stevia I buy is organic white powder. In the last four years we have grown stevia in our organic veggie garden. I have 18 vigorous plants that are perenial. (Read up on it.) I discovered one year when the crop was just too abundant that I had to juice them in my masticating juicer or lose the crop.. I put the juice in small mason jars; and kept them for over one year in the fridge. I would just use a teaspoon or two in my green juice to sweeten up the stuff. No bad taste. No bitter taste. Even after a year in the mason jar in the fridge. The stevia juice would turn brown but nevertheless the taste was just fine. Whodathought.

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