For FDA, Stevia Is No Sweet Deal

The FDA is continuing with its position regarding stevia, the South American herb with natural sweetening properties. In August 2007, Hain, a manufacturer of organic foods was issued a warning by the FDA for adding stevia as a sweetener to its line of teas.

The FDA’s approach to this herb is ambiguous. Back in 1991, the agency slapped a ban on imports of stevia, a controversial decision at the time given that stevia (which is derived from the plant stevia rebaudiana), has been used as a natural sweetener by people in South America, particularly Paraguay and Brazil for centuries before being discovered by the US.

In 1994, the ruling was changed, and allowed the herb, which is as much as 300 times as sweet as sugar to be sold as a dietary supplement, but banned its use as an additive. What this essentially means is that you can buy a can of stevia, and use it to sweeten your teas and coffees, but companies aren’t allowed to add it to sweeten prepackaged products. If you’re a manufacturer, you can advertise it as a nutritional supplement, but it cannot be mentioned as an additive.

Proponents of stevia claim that the herb has been used to sweeten drinks in South America from pre-Colombian times. Its first usage by native tribes was recorded by a scientist in 1887, and throughout its history of usage there have been no side effects or heath hazards reported. They point to the fact that stevia has been found to have no calories, and provides all the sweetness of sugar and then some without the ill effects.

Toxicologists aren’t impressed, however. Animal studies, they claim have revealed some carcinogenic properties, and also possible negative effects on fertility, making stevia not so sweet a deal for the consumer.

Stevia is widely consumed in Japan and China, although in smaller quantities. Scientists worry that the presence of this herb as a sweetener in diet foods which are consumed in large quantities by Americans could have potentially negative health effects. And the US isn’t alone in its distaste for stevia. The European Union, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore have all banned the herb.

As far as the FDA is concerned, they’re sticking to their guns and noting that some experts advise that if you absolutely must add stevia to your coffee, do it sparingly, until further tests prove it’s safe to use.

Comments

18 Responses to “For FDA, Stevia Is No Sweet Deal”

  1. Connie on February 8th, 2008 9:15 pm

    I have been using Stevia for qite a while. I use it often.
    I sweeten everything with it.I drink green tea several times a day sweetened with it. I use it in oat meal, protien shakes recently, my menstral cycle has been inconsistant and painful. I was expeiencing hot flashes several times a day. I am 47. I assumed it was early menopause and maybe it is. I stopped using stevia about one month ago. My hot flashes are gone and I just had a normal menstrual cycle. Do you think stevia contributed to what I was experiencing?

  2. Barbara Baugh on March 10th, 2008 12:31 pm

    And we all know how safe drugs are if the FDA approves them–don’t we?

  3. B. Estill on August 11th, 2009 6:31 pm

    I have been using Stevia for two days now and both days I have been having many mild hot flashes off and on. I am 56 years old and have not had hot flashes before. It is obvious it has to be the Stevia I started using. I can find no other people complaining of this except you and me. Not sure why this is happening, but not taking any chances with my health, so will stop taking it.

  4. Sarah on December 30th, 2009 9:24 am

    I am 49, and had only a few mild hot flashes about 2 years ago. Now I’m having them regularly–and it has coincided with my beginning the use of stevia to sweeten my tea (about 3 cups a day) and sometimes my oatmeal. Just googled “stevia and hot flashes” to see if any1 else has experienced the same–and looks like they have so I will stop its use immediately! thanks.

  5. Sarah Win on March 3rd, 2010 8:46 pm

    I started drinking Stevia sodas a while back and have always had a very to the tee regular menstrual cycle. This month I started doubling up and living off of Stevia sodas- I have noticed headaches, no menstrual cycle, and hot flashes and I am only 30 years old. It as been the only change in my lifestyle.

  6. Lee on June 9th, 2010 9:04 pm

    I started drinking Vitamin Water Zero ~4-5 drinks a day and my period which has been exactly the same for the past ten years was worse than it had ever been before. No other changes at all were made to my diet or my lifestyle. It was so bad that I went to see the gyno. It’s still going and its been over a week now (usually it lasts 4 days for me). It started to slow down and I had another drink of VitaminWaterZero and like clockwork it started getting heavier again. There is DEF something up with either the vitamins, the minerals, or the stevia and if I had to guess which one…I’d say stevia’s to blame.

  7. Andy on August 22nd, 2010 1:04 am

    Until recently, I’ve had a very regular menstrual cycle. My irregular periods strongly correlate to my starting to use stevia daily to sweeten my tea. My menstrual problems started immediately after I stated using the stevia. At 39, I shutter to think I’m starting perimenopause but I’ll admit there are other potential causes for my troubles. I’ve only been off the stevia for a few days but should my period return to normal I will have too again strongly correlate my discontinuing the use of stevia with the resolution of my irregular periods.

    Just b/c one person has an ill effect doesn’t mean everyone will that’s why it’s a potential side effect and not a forgone conclusion.

    Stevia has been used for over 200 years in Paraguay as a form of birth control. Could all those generations of women be wrong? Yes – but what if they are right? Is saving a few calories here and there worth it if the consequences are not well studied.

    “And we all know how safe drugs are if the FDA approves them–don’t we?”

    At least drugs approved by the FDA have passed double blind studies and other scientific methods to demonstrate a measure of safety and efficacy in use. Currently no body regulates or tests the shelves and shelves of natural remedies or “dietary supplements” available at the local heath food store. Just b/c it’s natural doesn’t mean its safe or effective. And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the purveyors of these products are interested in anything more than making money. It’s a billion dollar industry for a reason.

  8. Terry on September 21st, 2010 7:49 am

    I am 47 and am a regular Stevia user. I also have had hot flashes during my Stevia use- never had them before. I also have not had a period in 10 months. I’m a distance runner, so it could be due to that. Think I’ll go off the Stevia and see if things improve for me.

  9. Raven on May 19th, 2011 6:46 pm

    I have been using Stevia since 2003. Not heavily, but regularly in hot teas. I have no problem. I am 47, always had a regular period and I go through hot flashes from time to time, but not really bad. My periods are alway on time, and never painful or heavy. At 47 hot flashes are normal. Women have been having long before Stevia came to the US. So this one is not going to blame them on Stevia. Its just the early stages of menopause, another stage of our lives. I would much rather use Stevia in moderation as a sweetener than the chemical aspertame or assulfame potassium, both of which give me severe migranes.

  10. Sanfah on July 18th, 2011 11:48 pm

    OMG. I recently read that Stevia’s molecular structure resembles a steroid. It got me thinking about why my periods seem to be getting farther and farther apart. I recently realized that it all started when I started using Stevia. I was using several packets/day. I am 27, and I have always had normal periods, but now, it seems like the next one is never going to come. I am going to stop using it. I hear honey is a great choice, as the sugars are simple monosacharrides, and easy to digest, especially for those suffering from digestive conditions.

  11. ginny dickerhoof on December 19th, 2011 4:12 pm

    Wow, I have been using stevia for a couple months now, daily, in my tea. I also began having hot flashes and night sweats. It was the only thing I’ve added to my lifestyle, so I googled it and found you guys. I would love to hear whether your hot flashes have diminished since you stopped using stevia. It makes me a bit sad, because I have grown to love stevia, but I will go off of it and see if the hot flashes diminish. thanks

  12. Kat on March 26th, 2012 5:52 pm

    I’m 34 and just had the worst 2 cycles of my life. I looked to see what dietary changes I’ve made recently and adding stevia was the only major one – and I did it about 2 weeks before that first horrible cycle. So now I know.

  13. stacey on May 22nd, 2012 5:54 pm

    I am 49 and started having stevia tablets in my coffee and tea about 6 weeks ago. I wanted to stop sugar to reduce body fat and it worked. But…. I now look back after reading your posts and will stop today because I have the worst hot flushes all day and horrible night sweats all night that keep me awake. I am an organic vegetarian and exercise daily so this is the only thing I have changed in my life. Stay tuned I will let you know if going off stevia helps. One day into it now.

  14. stacey on June 19th, 2012 6:59 pm

    Hi,
    Well I have been off the stevia for one month now and not had one hot flush. I will never have it again. It at first does nothing but once it obviously gets into your system it is horrible. I also have a girlfriend who went on it at the same time as me and started to have severe insomnia. She went off it and has slept all night since a couple of days of no stevia. In my opinion it is not a safe substance when it causes reactions such as these. IM STAYING CLEAR AWAY FROM THE STUFF. IT TAKES 21 DAYS TO FORM A HABIT SO AFTER 21 DAYS IT WONT BE TO BAD HAVING TEA WITH NO SUGAR AND I WILL BE A LOT HEALTHIER FOR IT.

  15. KS on December 19th, 2012 10:45 am

    I’ve been using stevia for a couple of weeks now as part of a very restricted diet to address a systemic candida issue. It took a few days to figure it out, but I can now say with absolute certainty that the days that I use the most stevia are followed by the worst evenings and nights of sleep disturbing hot flashes. I am menopausal and have had hot flashes prior to using stevia, but there is no doubt in my mind that the stevia use increases the frequency and intensity of my hot flashes dramatically. It also seems to increase the likelihood of sweats accompanying the hot flashes.

    I cannot say that I will discontinue its use completely, but I will be using far less!

  16. KS on December 19th, 2012 10:56 am

    You know, it occurs to me that what we buy as stevia in the store is really a highly refined pharmaceutical product made from the stevia plant. I wonder if using the whole herb in place of the refined substance would create the same issues? I think this is worth looking into. I don’t know of any highly refined food or drug that is “good for you”, and they all seem to create intense symptoms of one kind or another. Whole plant substances have a wide range of ingredients and are more balanced. I am going to grow my own stevia and find out if my theory holds water.

  17. RuRu on January 30th, 2013 5:13 pm

    I just fouond this website andd MUST leave my eperience for all to read. I am a double transplant pt and also am a diabetic. I recently found soda sweetrened with Stevia and had 1-4 cans/daily. I went through menopause 6 yrs ago without ANY symptoms (dr. said I was one of the lucky ones). All at once, beginning with the Stevia pop intake I have had SEVERE night sweats to the point that I have had IV’s every day for the past 15 days!! Drenching sweats. Endo and Gyno dr’s say it isnt diabetes or menopause. it has to be Stevia. who knew? BE CAREFUL. Again, thhis was the only thing I did differently….

  18. Peggy on April 16th, 2013 12:13 pm

    I just quit using Stevia and starting using Monk Fruit and my hot flashes have completely stopped! It too about two days of being off the Stevia.

Leave a Reply