Is Stevia Extract Safe to Use?

Stevia is a plant native to South America that has been used for centuries for both food and medicinal purposes. It is a source of sweetness that contains no calories, and its main components responsible for sweetness (steviol glycosides) are found in its leaves. The FDA has approved highly purified steviol glycosides from stevia leaves as safe to use. Stevia sweeteners are calorie-free sweeteners that can be used to reduce the intake of added sugars and, at the same time, provide the satisfaction of enjoying the taste of something sweet.

Steviol glycosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and therefore do not provide calories or affect blood glucose levels. When they reach the colon, intestinal microbes break apart glucose molecules and use them as an energy source. The remaining vertebral column of steviol is then absorbed through the portal vein, metabolized in the liver, and excreted in the urine. The metabolism of stevia is the same in healthy children as in healthy adults, so the FDA and JECFA have concluded that high-purity stevia sweeteners are safe for children to consume within the recommended daily dosage. Stevia sweeteners can add sweetness to a child's food and drinks without contributing to the calories consumed or the intake of added sugars.

Stevia sweeteners are not cariogenic, so they do not increase the risk of dental caries. Extensive research shows that stevia sweeteners do not raise blood glucose levels or otherwise affect blood glucose control in humans. Recent consensus statements from experts in nutrition, medicine, physical activity and public health cite the neutral effects of low calorie sweeteners on hemoglobin A1C, postprandial glucose and fasting insulin levels and conclude that the use of low calorie sweeteners for personal diabetes care may contribute to better glycemic control. The gut microbiota is an integral part of steviol glycoside metabolism, a process that research has demonstrated has a limited effect on the composition of the human gut microbiome itself. However, no randomized clinical trials have yet been conducted in humans and, to date, there is no evidence that stevia sweeteners have a significant impact on the composition or function of the gut microbiome. When consumed in low doses, purified stevia is generally not considered to pose health risks to pregnant individuals. While stevia extract is considered safe for people with diabetes, some brands contain dextrose or maltodextrin.

You should use them with caution, since dextrose is glucose and maltodextrin is a type of starch. These ingredients add small amounts of carbohydrates and calories.

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