Shedding those extra pounds can mean waging a constant war against sneaky calories. And sugar, with 4 calories per gram, can be particularly problematic.1 Using a natural sweetener like stevia can seem like a good option since it contains zero calories and is 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. But it’s worth keeping in mind that natural doesn’t automatically mean safe. So how safe is stevia for use?
Many foods and beverages that are labeled “sugar-free” contain stevia. What the stevia sweeteners at your local grocery store contain are glycosides like rebaudioside A or stevioside from stevia leaves in a highly purified form.2 3 Here’s to take a look at some side effects that could be caused by stevia.
1. Abdominal Distress
A feeling of fullness or bloating as
Some people have reported feeling dizzy after taking stevia.
3. Muscle Pain
Aching muscles may also occur in some cases as a reaction to this sweetener.
Loss of feeling is another side effect that’s been reported in some instances. Numbness in the hand and feet or the tongue are reactions you should watch out for.
5. Low Blood Pressure
Stevia could lower blood pressure. If you already have low blood pressure or are using medications or herbs that lower your blood pressure, this can be detrimental to your well-being.
6. Low Blood Sugar
Stevia might reduce your blood sugar too. Again, if your blood sugar’s already low or you’re using medication or herbs which lower sugar, the added effect of stevia could cause your sugar levels to drop too low.
7. Allergic Reaction
Stevia is a part of the plant family known as Asteraceae or Compositae. If you’re allergic to other plants in this family like ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, or daisies, you could be allergic to stevia too and might
8. Anti-Fertility Effects
Among native Indians in Paraguay, stevia is used to make a beverage that is purported to have contraceptive effects in men. There are also conflicting animal studies on the contraceptive effects of stevia, with some studies finding no effect on fertility and other finding a link between stevia and a decrease in sperm count and testosterone concentration. To be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid stevia if you’re planning a baby.5
9. Potential Toxicity During Pregnancy
Animal studies have found steviol, which is formed when stevioside is metabolized, to be toxic during pregnancy with effects like high maternal mortality and decreased maternal weight gain. Among the test animals, the mean fetal weight gain as well as live births per litter also reduced due to steviol. Though we don’t have enough information about how this can affect humans, it’s best to exercise
About 4 mg/kg Body Weight Is Considered Safe
FDA considers 4 mg per kilogram of body weight in a day of high purity steviol glycosides to be an acceptable intake. This means that a person who weighs 132 pounds can have around 9 sweetener packets in a day.7
It’s still important to note that while the FDA does not contest the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of some steviol glycosides and its use in food, the direct use of whole stevia leaf and crude stevia extracts are not yet allowed in the country. This is over concerns about how they may impact cardiovascular, renal, or reproductive systems.8 9
|↑1||Carbohydrate Counting & Diabetes. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2, ↑8||Ten Ren Tea Company of San Francisco, Ltd 7/31/15. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑3, ↑7||Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑4||Stevia. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5||Sharma, Manishika, Naveen Kr Thakral, and Seema Thakral. “Chemistry and in vivo profile of ent-kaurene glycosides of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni—An overview.” (2009).|
|↑6||Sharma, Manishika, Naveen Kr Thakral, and Seema Thakral. “Chemistry and in vivo profile of ent-kaurene glycosides of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni—An overview.” (2009).|