Despite extensive research on their safety, artificial sweeteners remain controversial due to claims they may cause health complications, like cancer or obesity.Unlike artificial sweeteners that are made with chemical compounds, Stevia is considered a "natural" sugar substitute because it's derived from a plant.So far, the general consensus is that Stevia is safe to consume in moderation, says Constance Brown-Riggs, a registered dietitian and owner of the consulting and counseling service CBR Nutrition Enterprises.For example, a small 2020 study in humans found that Stevia had an "inhibitory effect on bacterial communication" meaning it could contribute to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, which can result in gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, gas, and nausea.Another 2020 study in mice found that those fed Stevia for 16 weeks saw certain proteins responsible for inflammation increase in both the liver and kidneys, which – over time — could damage the organs.However, more research is needed as "there is simply not enough evidence yet either way as far as damage to kidneys goes with regards to Stevia use," says Jamie Hickey, a certified nutritionist and founder of Truism Fitness. .

Stevia: Health Benefits and Risks

In South America and Asia, people have been using stevia leaves to sweeten drinks like tea for many years.Major U.S. soda companies now sell diet cola soft drinks sweetened with stevia.The FDA says it doesn’t have enough information about their potential impact on your health, including kidney and cardiovascular problems. .

Stevia: Side Effects, Benefits, and More

They’re made from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A).You can grow stevia plants at home and use the leaves to sweeten foods and beverages.It also left study participants satisfied and full after eating, despite the lower calorie intake.However, one noted limitation in this study is that it took place in a laboratory setting, rather than in a real-life situation in a person’s natural environment.Study participants consumed 20 milliliters of stevia extract daily for one month.Although stevia is considered safe for people with diabetes, brands that contain dextrose or maltodextrin should be treated with caution.A 2019 study reported a possible link between nonnutritive sweeteners, including stevia, and disruption in beneficial intestinal flora.The same study also suggested nonnutritive sweeteners may induce glucose intolerance and metabolic disorders.In some people, stevia products made with sugar alcohols may cause digestive problems, such as bloating and diarrhea.There’s some evidence to suggest that stevia may help fight or prevent some types of cancer.It found that many stevia glycoside derivatives were toxic to specific leukemia, lung, stomach, and breast cancer cell lines.sprinkled on unsweetened yogurt Some stevia brands, such as Stevia in the Raw, can replace table sugar teaspoon for teaspoon (as in sweetened beverages and sauces), unless you’re using it in baked goods.Stevia in the Raw recommends replacing half the total amount of sugar in your recipe with their product.You should add extra liquid or a bulking ingredient such as applesauce or mashed bananas to your recipe to make up for the lost sugar. .

Stevia side effects: What you need to know

Stevia leaves are about 200 times sweeter than traditional white sugar and people have used them for centuries as a sweetener and herbal supplement.However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only consider high-purity steviol glycosides to be safe for human consumption currently.Risks and side effects According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake for steviol equivalents is 4 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight .When used as a sweetener or to flavor foods, experts do not consider highly purified stevia to cause adverse side effects.Because the kidney is responsible for filtering and creating urine, researchers initially thought that long-term consumption of stevia could damage the organ.bloating Several studies using rodent and human cell cultures have demonstrated the potential gastrointestinal benefits of steviol glycosides.Both the FDA and European Commission concluded that the number of individuals who are hypersensitive to stevia or at a risk of having an allergic response to it is low.A 2016 study found that human sperm cells exposed to steviol experienced an increase in progesterone production.Factors that may increase the risk of stevia side effects include: blood pressure conditions and medications.Increasingly, stevia supplements and extracts are being found to contain counterfeit ingredients, primarily artificial sweeteners that are linked to known health risks.Studies using rat embryos have established that stevia did not affect pregnancy or fertility outcomes and was non-toxic to fetal tissues.However, some of the common counterfeit ingredients found in stevia mixtures and formulas are linked to serious complications and may cause birth abnormalities.High doses or heavy, long-term use of stevia may worsen common pregnancy symptoms by increasing the workload on organs such as the kidneys, bladder, and heart. .

Stevia Safety: Forms, Dosage, and Side Effects

It’s also associated with several impressive health benefits, such as reduced calorie intake, blood sugar levels, and risk of cavities ( 1 , 2 , 3 ).In fact, many varieties on the market are highly refined and combined with other sweeteners — such as erythritol, dextrose, and maltodextrin — which may alter its potential health effects.Some research indicates that stevia may be a safe and effective way to help manage blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.In fact, one small study in 12 people with this condition showed that consuming this sweetener alongside a meal led to greater decreases in blood sugar levels compared to a control group given an equal amount of corn starch ( 2 ).Keep in mind that certain stevia blends may contain other types of sweeteners — including dextrose and maltodextrin — that can increase blood sugar levels (11, 12 ).Using these products in moderation or opting for pure stevia extract can help maintain normal blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.However, animal studies suggest that this sweetener — in the form of steviol glycosides like Reb A — does not negatively impact fertility or pregnancy outcomes when used in moderation ( 13 ).Limiting your kid’s consumption of foods with stevia and other sweeteners, such as sugar, can help prevent adverse side effects and support overall health.For example, one review noted that zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia could interfere with concentrations of beneficial gut bacteria, which play a central role in disease prevention, digestion, and immunity ( 15 , 16 , 17 ).Another study in 893 people found that variations in gut bacteria could negatively impact body weight, triglycerides, and levels of HDL (good) cholesterol — known risk factors for heart disease ( 18 ).What’s more, a review of seven studies discovered that routine consumption of zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia may contribute to increased body weight and waist circumference over time ( 21 ).Additionally, certain products with stevia may harbor sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol, which are sweeteners sometimes associated with digestive issues in sensitive individuals ( 22 ). .

All the Stevia Pros and Cons You Should Know Before Using It

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed stevia "generally recognized as safe.".Wild-growing shrubs remain rare, but commercial growers have made the cultivated form common.The stevia leaf has substances in it — called glycosides — which have a sugary sweet taste, according to an October 2014 review in the ​Innovare Journal of Food Science​.Stevia is considered one of the safest sweeteners, as it's made from a real plant and not artificially created.Some of the truly artificial sweeteners might have bad side effects, like increasing your risk of stroke, according to the American Heart Association.Artificial sweeteners like stevia may help lower body weight when used as a replacement for sugar, according to a September 2015 meta-analysis in the ​​International Journal of Obesity​​.This makes sense, because the total calorie count of food goes down when you replace sugar with a low-calorie option.Streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria that is a major cause of tooth decay, can't thrive with stevia present, according to a July 2012 study in the ​International Journal of Advances in Pharmacy, Biology and Chemistry​.The writers of a June 2015 report in the ​Journal of Medicinal Plant and Herbal Therapy Research​ tested 114 people with diabetes and found that using stevia improved their symptoms.Taking in phenolic compounds has been linked to lowering the risk for heart disease, according to a May 2014 study in ​BMC Medicine​.A compound in stevia called stevioside has been shown to cause breast cancer cell death, according to April 2012 research in ​Nutrition and Cancer​.Just as well, derivatives of these compounds in stevia were found to be toxic to lung, leukemia, and stomach cancer cells in another February 2013 study in ​Chemistry and Biodiversity​.The most common reported side effects of stevia are bloating and nausea after eating the sweetener.Some research suggests that stevia could interfere with the beneficial bacteria in your gut, according to a January 2019 review in ​Advances in Nutrition​.People on medications for their diabetes or to control their blood pressure should talk to their doctors before using stevia. .

Stevia: Can it help with weight control?

Refined stevia preparations (Pure Via, Truvia, others) are considered nonnutritive sweeteners — they have virtually no calories — and so may appeal to people trying to lose weight.In addition, these highly refined stevia extracts may cause mild side effects, such as nausea or a feeling of fullness.In particular, the FDA has concerns about the effects of whole-leaf or crude stevia on blood sugar control, the kidneys, and the cardiovascular and reproductive systems.Remember that while sugar substitutes, such as refined stevia preparations, may help with weight management, they aren't a magic bullet and should be used only in moderation. .

Are There Downsides to the Sweetener Stevia?

A recent small study found, for example, that when participants had a drink sweetened with stevia instead of sugar in the morning, they compensated by eating more at lunch, along with bigger lunchtime spikes in blood glucose and insulin. .

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