Thursday, December 4, 2008

is stevia a go?

Announced this week, the word on the street is that the FDA is nearing approval of Stevia, the natural sweetener derived from the chysanthemum plant which has recently garnered much support from the organic/naturalist community. Stevia has become a mighty trendy alternative to artificial sweeteners because of one word: natural. Yes, stevia is natural, but that does not seal it's safety. It has been used for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Japan, and yes, it does not seem as though it has been linked to any negative health outcomes in those communities. However, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are poised to begin mass producing beverages made with Stevia. This concerns me for several reasons.

1. I'm pretty sure the amount of Stevia consumed in tribal groups and East Asia was miniscule compared to what would be consumed here given the number of sodas the typical American consumes in a day. Furthermore, there have not been enough studies conducted to investigate a tolerable upper limit for Stevia - how much is potentially too much and what would this mean?

2. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is still concerned. This is the group that helped to nail trans fats/hydrogenated oils back in the 90's. They are a consumer-watchdog group that has no ties to the food industry whatsoever. The fact that they still feel more studies should be conducted speaks volumes to me, especially since some animal studies have yieled disconcerting results.

3. Compared to the hundreds of studies conducted "unnatural" sweeteners, Stevia doesn't pass muster. Being a scientist of sorts, I just can't trust that because it came from a plant and some people (with completely different lifestyles than ours) consume it without issue that it should be GRAS (generally recognized as safe) - especially not for mass production!



  1. well, this is discouraging to hear. I have tried Stevia and did not like it because of the "twang". However, the new offering being advertised nationally is "Truvia". I tried it and really like it. I was encouraged that maybe I could quit using as much artifical sweetner for something more healthy. So now I am confused. What should we be using?

  2. Anonymous, my advice is to use what's been tested and approved my non-profit agencies. There is controversy surrounding this issue all the way around, but in the end - I trust actual research more than heresay.

    I wouldn't worry too much about it. Modertation is the key, and as long as you're not drinking gallons upon gallons of artificially sweetened beverages, I think you'll be just fine.

  3. I was in China and was fascinated tasting the green leaf that was in my tea used to naturally sweeten it. Later I learned of Stevia in the USA and knew it was the same as the leaf I had in China, and I thought, "such a funny name for a natural sugar." I have also read of many of benefits to this sweetener that are derived from the leaf. To date, I have never heard of anything negative except that it might give Nutrisweet a run for the money - which might not be such a bad thing.
    Personally I have found it complements fruit smoothies, and is a fabulous sweetener in a refreshing apple cider vinegar drink. Add about 1tsp to 1Tbs apple cider vinegar to a quart of water and one to two packets of stevia. I also sometimes add a touch of real vanilla. Enjoy!

  4. I doubt Stevia is an issue when used in moderation. The possible problems lies in the amount being used. Our country is a country of overindulgence. That's why we're so overweight to begin with. Ameicans don't like limits, boundaries, or moderation in any aspect of their lives.

    I figure the Stevia thing the same as oranges. A single orange every day isn't a problem, but eating 20 of them a day is unhealthy and unsafe!


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