IS STEVIA SAFE?

IS STEVIA SAFE-min

Is Stevia Safe? Its effects and benefits on diabetic, pregnant women, and kids are all discussed in this article.

Stevia is one of the sugar substitutes considered healthy and safe. It is believed that Stevia can sweeten food without any negative effects linked to refined sugar. Moreover, Stevia is also associated with numerous health benefits, including reduced blood sugar levels, challenges of cavities, and calorie intake. However, there is some existing concern that surrounds the safety of stevia health-wise. But this is only doubtable in people who are more sensitive to the effects. This article examines the effects, safety, and benefits of Stevia to help determine if you can use it.

What Is Stevia

Stevia is a naturally-derived sweetener from stevia plant leaves. The sweetener contains zero calories. Surprisingly, it comes in as one of the sweeter sugars compared to table sugar. It is popularly consumed by people who want to decrease their sugar intake or lose weight. Moreover, Stevia is also linked to numerous health benefits like lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. These sweeteners also vary when it comes to quality. There is a wide range of stevia varieties in the market. They are highly refined and also combined with different sweeteners, including dextrose, maltodextrin, and erythritol. All these combinations have different benefits when it comes to one’s health. Furthermore, the studies show that the less processed stevia forms might lack safety.

Forms of Stevia

Stevia contains different varieties that you can choose from. But all its varieties differ in terms of ingredients and processing method. For example, the Truvia and Raw are the popular forms or varieties of Stevia. The Stevia is made with the application of rebaudioside A (Reb-A). This is an extract of refined Stevia alongside other types of sweeteners like erythritol and maltodextrin. Also, the pure extracts made from the Reb-A contain both powder and liquid.

Unlike Stevia blends, the pure extracts go through numerous processing methods that often are the same. However, the pure extract differs since they aren’t combined with the other sugar alcohol or sweetener. Meanwhile, you can also come across the green leaf stevia that comes in as the least form. The green leaf stevia is made from dried and grounded leaves. It is one of the purest forms of stevia sweetener. But unlike the Reb-A and pure extracts, there is limited research on green leaf stevia that proves its safety and benefits.

Stevia Safety and Dosing

Steviol glycosides like pure extracts and Reb A are some of the refined stevia extracts considered to be safe for your health. Also, it is recognized by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means they can be applied perfectly as a recommendable food product. The United States is one of the greatest states that market these stevia products.

Unfortunately, there are other stevia varieties that aren’t approved by the FDA to be consumed as food because of limited research on the same. Regulatory agencies such as Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and FDA recommends up to 1.8 mg intake of Stevia per body weight.

The Safety of Stevia in Certain Population

Despite the fact that stevia products are recommended by the FDA as safe for your health, some studies show that the same products might negatively affect certain groups of people differently. Due to age and different health conditions, people should be mindful when taking stevia products. Here are some groups that can be affected by these products.

Diabetes

The stevia products might be helpful to people with diabetes, but you need to be keen on the types you go for. Most studies show that stevia products may be safe and effective ways of managing blood sugar levels. This makes them better for those with type 2 diabetes conditions. Stevia extracts are known for controlling both hemoglobin A1C and blood sugar. Unfortunately, stevia blends like maltodextrin and dextrose, unlike other products, increases the level of blood sugar in the body.

Pregnancy

Want to know if it’s right to consume stevia products when you are pregnant? There is limited evidence when it comes to the safety of stevia products during pregnancy. However, when Reb-A is moderately used, they don’t negatively impact your pregnancy or fertility. Moreover, the steviol glycosides are considered safe and effective for pregnant adults. Still, the research on both raw extracts and whole-leaf Stevia is limited. Therefore, ensure you only stick to stevia products approved by the FDA before using any to prevent negative feedback.

Children

Stevia products are great, especially when it comes to cutting down the consumption of added sugar. Too much intake of added sugars often affects the normal functioning of children. This is why you need to be careful with the dosage. Research from the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that a high intake of added sugars can easily increase the risk of heart diseases in children. However, some products such as Reb A are approved by different agencies, including FDA. But ensure you monitor the kid’s intake to prevent any effect.

Side Effects of Stevia Products

FDA and other food safety agencies recommend the use of Stevia. But the same products might have other related side effects on your health, especially for kids and other groups of people. The Stevia can easily interfere with your concentration of the gut bacteria responsible for preventing diseases, immunity, and digestion. Moreover, these products can also lead to an increase in body weight over time. The stevia products can also reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, thus interfering with the normal medication for treating the condition. You can always moderate your stevia intake to prevent you from the side effects.

Final Thoughts

The natural sweetener, Stevia, is one of the sweetest sugars you can ever come across. Stevia products are also linked to several health benefits, such as lowering sugar levels and weight loss. While most refined extracts are safe for your general health, research on raw and whole leaf products is limited. Moreover, the products are also associated with some side effects. Therefore, mind your dose whenever you want to consume stevia products.

Marie Salbuvik

Dietician MS, Lund University, Sweden Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

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