Is Stevia Safe?
Stevia is a non-caloric herb, native to South America. It’s 300 times sweeter than sugar and has been used for more than 1,500 years around the globe. Given its long history of use both traditionally and in modern industry, the issue of stevia’s safety seems a bit of a no-brainer. However, there have been some bitter reactions to its rise in popularity.
Many people are concerned about their blood sugar count and how to lower it while still being able to enjoy a sweet treat occasionally. So you can imagine that commercial use of a non-caloric natural herb that doesn’t have the same effect as sugar in raising the blood sugar count would be big business. However, sometimes it can be a threat to big business too. In the early nineties, the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that stevia was an “unsafe food additive” and restricted its trade. One Congressman labeled the FDA’s action against stevia “a restraint of trade to benefit the artificial sweetener industry.” Tellingly, the FDA has never issued any document that declares in a binding fashion that stevia is unsafe and cannot be sold, only that it cannot be sold as a sweetener.
So why might the artificial sugar industry apply this pressure? Well, because stevia occurs naturally, it does not require a patent to produce it. In other words, no one has the right to sell it while restricting others from doing so. If stevia continues to become a popular healthy choice for sweetening food and drink that people can potentially grow in their backyard, it’s impact on the artificial sweetener business profits would be severe. In 1995, the FDA was forced to revise its stance and to permit stevia to be sold as a dietary supplement, although this created a double standard. Stevia could now be sold as a supplement but not as a food additive. This demonstrated that the FDA’s ruling clearly had nothing to do with the consumers’ health or the safety of stevia. In 2008, a specific component of stevia (rebaudioside A) was deemed safe as a food additive and dietary supplement.
Stevia is said to be a healthy addition to the diet for many people. Both animal and human studies suggest that stevia extracts may increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose control without side effects. Stevia has been used widely as sweeteners in Japan since 1971 without restriction or reported health hazards. Traditional use in South America with those suffering from diabetes supports the argument that stevia is potentially useful to those with blood sugar regulation issues. Health Canada recently determined “there are no health or safety concerns associated with the use of stevia in the prescribed applications”. Food standards agencies in Australia and New Zealand have also declared stevia safe.
Stevia is a great way to naturally sweeten foods and drinks. However, as with all foods, an approach of moderation should be applied. When using stevia as a sweetener, use it in its whole form (in powder, liquid or herb…as long as it doesn’t have any additional chemicals or ingredients added). Sweet!
Article by Renée Leonard-Stainton, Naturopath & Nutritionist
Renée Naturally – www.reneenaturally.com
Where can I order Stevia online?
Want to enjoy the health benefits of Stevia for yourself? Order quality Stevia from our online shop in either liquid or powder form. Take advantage of our great low prices, and free delivery to Australia on all orders over $79.