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Is Stevia Good For You?

How much of this natural sweetener can be considered safe?

August 30, 2010 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to carlo_mastrogiacomo.

Transcript

The jury is finally in on Stevia The reason it’s been such a long time coming is that research out of Japan in the 90s found that steviosides, the active ingredient in stevia, appeared totally harmless, but in the guts of rats intestinal bacteria transformed steviosides into something called steviol, which is toxic, causing a big spike in mutagenic DNA damage. So the question was do we have those same rat bacteria in our guts, and it turns out we do. So we know that when we eat stevia, mutagenic compounds are produced in our colons and absorbed into our bloodstream. The only remaining question was how much.
The World Health Organization just released their latest evaluation of food additives, and they consider up to 4 mg/kg of body weight safe. So that’s 1.8 mg per pound, so if you multiply your weight in pounds times 1.8, that’s how many milligrams of stevia compounds you should stay under. The problem is the American sweet tooth. We’re supposed to stay under 4, but if we sweetened everything with stevia we could exceed that safety limit, at least in the United States. But, as long as you only drink like two stevia-sweetened beverages a day, it can be considered, harmless.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other “HHH” videos (Harmful, Harmless, or Helpful?). Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Vitamin B12: how much, how often?Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel SyndromeIs Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating?,Soymilk: shake it up!, and Is There a Safe, Low-Calorie Sweetener?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other “HHH” videos (Harmful, Harmless, or Helpful?). Also, there are over a thousand subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/melaniep/ MelanieP

    1. Have there been any other studies other than the one mentioned in the video? To be honest, this is the first time I’ve seen any negative effects of stevia and I’m concerned because I use it quite often for sweetening my tea – and I drink a lot of tea. :)
    2. If you stay under the amount mentioned in the video, does that mean it’s harmless or simply within safe levels?
    3. How does the amount you mentioned in the video translate into daily allowance when using liquid stevia? (a typical variety available, such as NuNaturals organic liquid)

    • HK

      I have the same question Melanie. We have been using stevia for years and now I don’t know what to do. I only use about 1/8 tsp at a time and maybe do this 2-3 times a day. I have no idea how this compares to the “safe” amounts talked about in this video. since seeing this i have started to decrease the amounts i use in my tea and smoothies and I’m actually finding that 1/16 of a tsp works fine too. hopefully we can get answers!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jmf/ jmf

    I also use a lot of Stevia, and have for MANY years! I don’t like the flavor of my local water and add it to every glass I drink! What I have done to myself??

    • http://www.eatandbeatcancer.com/ Harriet Sugar Miller

      Maybe there’s something wrong with your local water. Have you tested it? tried filtering it? tried drinking water with lemon juice instead?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Vitamin B12: how much, how often?!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Vitamin B12: how much, how often?!

  • Rj Dredge

    Is there any studies comparing stevia to sugar regarding health issues?

  • Linda

    I grow stevia on my patio, and use the leaves & stems in smoothies.  Do you have an opinion on whether unprocessed stevia plant parts would cause similar changes at similar levels?

    • Dazia

      THIS is what I have been asking! If any one knows, please tell us! I don’t like using processed crap any more. I’ve never used stevia as a flavouring, so I want to get the plant. My friend purchased one a few weeks back and it seemed like such a good idea. I’ve been doing research and every other article is either it’s good for you, it’s bad for you. No one can decide and I can’t get a finalized answer lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tawnya.veg Tawnya Veg

    Wow, this is scarry….I use tons of it! :/

    • HK

      so do I and have been for about 10 yrs!!

    • Soldier

      While it is concerning and I hope we get a clear answer, we should try to avoid using a ton of anything! Even a water in excess is not good.

  • Martie

    I’d like to see some more information to this segment. What does this bacteria in the gut do? I use stevia and well over 4.5 grams per day. What is the alternative? What about growing your own? Can you follow up please with more info?

  • http://www.facebook.com/DD.LoveDove Didi Nour

    that’s about harm, what about nutritionscale with other sweeteners?

  • Erin

    Wow, this is news. Is there an assessment of Lakanto, another reportedly non-glycemic sweetener?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jdmumma JD Mumma

    Are you aware that the study you refer to may have been funded by the Artificial Sweetern Industrial Complex corporations?
    Can you please update your video to include recent studies that show stevia has does not have “mutagenic compounds are produced in our stomach”?

    • TR M

      Can you provide some URL or journal links? I’m interested in both sides of a story and would like any info on Stevia. Thanks.

    • T. R.

      http://drjameslong.com/blog/

      Posted on Sept. 10, 2011 pretty much stating it can be safe and provides a link to an FDA study, if we want to give weight to them. It also depends on WHAT BRAND you use. If it has more than 2 ingredients, you should rethink your brand. That part I found in doing my own research.
      The info is out there and the time and energy you put into uncovering it is well worth it.

  • Linda G

    I was told by a chemist that processed anything is a problem. If you use Stevia it should be in pure form. It is not the Stevia plant it is the chemicals and other ingredients used in the processing .

  • geminibutterfly

    Forgive me, but I am going to be blunt here. I am truly sick and tired of a panic being perpetuated over EVERYTHING! This causes cancer…that causes hemmorhoids…this causes you to grow an extra hump on your back…c’mon people, CALM DOWN!!! Nothing, and I repeat, NOTHING is 100% safe nowadays. You think you’re eating 100% organic? You honestly believe that even if you grow your own garden, that the water you use is 100% pure? The soil is untainted? Just because you use no pesticides, your product is never going to be perfect. The very AIR you breathe is toxic, and that has more of an adverse affect on your body than anything you eat. There will always be conflicting reports, funded by competitors, looking to undermine eachother. We are all going to die of something, but chances are, it’s going to be from a stampede of chicken littles trampling eachother in a blind panic, before anything else. Stevia, even processed, is as close to safe a sweetener as you’re going to find.

  • AlizaCherche

    I saw an article on this site by Dr. Greger stating that agave nectar is a superior sweetener, which I know is not the case. I question whether this site is biased.

  • Jennie

    what about growing the plant and using the leaves as apposed to using the store bought supplement. Is the plant leaf itself safe, without all the processing?

  • Susannah

    I don’t like the way stevia tastes (bitter and ultra sweet), so I’m not surprised with these findings. I’m just now drinking a protein drink make with high quality ingredients and of course Stevia is included. It has that awful aftertaste reminiscent of artificial sweeteners. How can we get the food companies to stop putting it into almost everything? I don’t care if people add it or any other natural or manufactured sweetener, but I don’t want it showing up in everything (as if it’s the next “free ride” for sugar addicts.

  • Jonathan

    So does stevia act as a contraceptive? Is it safe for consumption?

  • Linda

    Thank you JD,
    I was beginning to feel panicked since I use a lot of organic pure stevia extract powder… glad to see there is nothing to worry about despite the older studies sited in the video above.

    • http://HumanExcellence.com/ JD Mumma

      Thanks for the response Linda.
      I do find it a little concerning that Dr Greger (or his sidekick “Toxins”) has not responded to any of the information I included in my response.

  • Alex Gonzalez

    What about stevia extract drops or whole stevia leaf?
    Are those bad too?

  • Vicki

    Stevia purchased at the grocery story has all kinds of additives that suppose to make it taste better. You must read labels! Only use PURE Stevia that you can only find at health food stores.