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

The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.
It is not a substitute for your doctor's care plan or advice.

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 you been reading posts about stevia safety 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. The articles were questioning stevia safety and they really sent me into a panic.

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.

I started asking myself, “Is stevia safe?” And I was worried. Really worried. If it wasn't safe, then what sweetener was I going to use?

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!

Concerns and The Truth About Stevia Safety

{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
– the ubiquitous undisclosed “natural flavors”

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

While bloggers who make this point about stevia safety 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 that the stevia in question has 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

Is stevia safe for people with adrenal fatigue?

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.

Yes,  candida is a complex issues, but yeast DEFINITELY 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

Is stevia safe for hypoglycemics?

Another concern brought up about stevia safety 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

Is stevia safe for use in pregnancy?

One of the main concerns about stevia safety 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.

This study, in fact, shows that stevia helps with glucose tolerance.  This study as well suggests that stevia can help balance blood sugar. If that is the case, then concerns about stevia safety as it relates to glycogen synthesis would seem to be invalid.

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 safety 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

Is stevia safe for those avoiding oxalates?

One of the bloggers initially wrote about stevia safety and was concerned that it is 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 safety 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.

And here is This study with a similar conclusion.

Glad to hear it.

10.  Stevia Can Cause Allergic Reactions

Is stevia safe for those with ragweed allergies?

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?  That boy was allergic to basically everything!

If you are allergic to one thing, that doesn't mean that you are allergic to everything that is related to that thing.

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

Is stevia safe for those concerned about toxic ingredients?

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.

If the manufacturer is using clean processing then concerns about stevia safety regarding processing toxicity are unfounded.

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 sweets if I eat the “real sugars”.

Conclusion

So…is stevia safe?

If you are concerned about stevia safety, here are my basic final thoughts. 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 and 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?

Basically, my answer to the question, “Is Stevia Safe?” is “yes!”

Now that you are likely feeling better about stevia and we've answered the question “Is Stevia Safe?”, again, here are some helpful posts about stevia:

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–is stevia safe? Do you use stevia? Will you keep using it?

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

Comments

    Speak Your Mind

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  1. John Dozier says:

    Thanks for taking the time and energy to share your research with us. You have convinced me that I am way better off taking Stevia than any other sweetener. Because like you I am a better fit or vice-a-versa. 🙂

  2. I think its obvious that the huge sugar and corn syrup, cancer causing industry has a lot to lose and I attribute all the opposition to their paid PR agents.

    Big companies pay big bucks to squash competition. Sugar is big business.

    Thanks for a great article to educate people and help them break their sugar dependency.

    Signed,
    A recovering sugar addict

  3. Christina says:

    Another great article! Man I was so nervous reading it though…. I sure do love my stevia, haha.

    Have you heard of the KAL brand? That’s the only one I’ve ever used (it tastes great so I just never saw the need to try another) and some friends of mine who complained of stevia being bitter recently switched to KAL and love it. It says it has no other ingredients in it, but I haven’t researched it.

    Also- I recently feared that stevia was high in oxalates as well. I am forced to limit my oxalate content because my levels are so high and I get really bad pain if I eat too much. But I finally found out that no brands of stevia are high in oxalates- the highest they can be is on the “medium” level. This information comes from the Trying Low Oxalates group on facebook, and I believe that their information can be trusted. They have poured a lot of time and research into their oxalate chart and it is quite extensive.

    Anyway thanks again for the informative post!

    • Thanks and I get it on the nervous part!

      I have used KAL but it’s been a long time. I know that for awhile it seemed that they only had a variety w/ additives in it. I should try it again.

      So glad to hear that about the oxalates!

  4. Thanks for the article. I started using Stevia recently, almost solely in coffee and goat milk.. I was very surprised on how it tasted like sugar. I sampled some by itself and tasted only a tiny hint of bitterness but when added to my beverages it was great. Stevia is my go to sweetener to cut sugar out of my diet. I think anything in excess it not good, so my approach is to carefully added Stevia in small amounts until I find a perfect balance. Thanks once again.

  5. Amy M Greer R.D. says:

    On Gluconeogenesis, it does not rely on added sugar as a sweetener. You must accept that all food is Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat in various ratios. All of which are eventually converted to Pyruvate as usable to the Mitochondria to strip ATP as the essential energy source on the cellular level Sugar alcohols are well known to be used in diabetic candies etc. and can cause GI distress in large amounts d/t indigestion. This is why Sorbitol is used as a laxative. The problem with the public is that they don’t get the chemistry and are afraid of it. Look up Krebs Cycle, Glycolosis, Gluconeogenesis, Beta Oxidation. My research has led me to find that artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols may cause degradation of the natural flora in the intestines which can cause intolerances to many foods and drugs, depending on the individual. Gut flora health is the first line of defense, the largest part of our immune system, keeping it healthy is essential.

  6. “I diagnosed myself — my doctor missed it.” Nuff said.

    • I’m confused – what are you trying to say?

      • It appears that he is one of those MD worshipers, not realizing that MDs never study nutrition. In fact they NEVER study health, only disease. Since I became the “doctor” of my body, I have enjoyed health. The last time there was sickness was under an MD’s watch. Now, 25 years later at 73, there is not even an incidence of colds.

        By the way, thank you for a clearly written article. I too was beginning to worry about the negative hype about Stevia. It reminds me of the scare about Kava affecting the liver, which has been debunked, but many still believe. Big Pharma and Big Food would love to see Stevia disappear.

        • Tom – sorry for the delay in responding. Thanks for your comment. I would love to see the info about kava being debunked. I have done some research into it and am confused but it seems that it’s a possible issue for those with liver issues. Thanks!!

  7. Debra Neilson says:
  8. Did you do a post on Erythritol? Because I am very interested to read that.

  9. PEOPLE! PURE STEVIA EXTRACT!

  10. Marcia Hudson says:

    I use the brand “Sweet Leaf” Stevia. It is the only one I can find that doesn’t also contain sugar alcohols. And it is definitely the most expensive one in my grocery store. I have never tried the liquid. After reading this and some other articles and discovering that it is related to ragweed, I’m wondering if the Stevia in my tea every morning is what causes my bought of sneezing . I am highly allergic to ragweed and have had a prescription for generic Flonase (now available without a prescription) for years (use every day) and keep and frequently take extra strength Mucinex whenever I feel congested. Not the one with the decongestant because I have high blood pressure; however, I haven’t noticed that the Stevia has lowered my blood pressure in any way. Thanks for the information .

  11. I have had raw freshly picked stevia….the teeniest bite from it’s very small leaf. it still has an aftertaste I can’t stand. is it safe? yes! will I cook with it? no. to me, it tastes yucky.

    • Processing the stevia with water into a white powder makes it taste better. I have grown stevia myself. I like it but baking with it would be tough. Thanks for reading!