Regulatory health agencies around the world have approved high purity stevia leaf extract for safe use. This includes special populations such as pregnant and nursing women, children and people with allergies or diabetes.1,2 Foods and beverages sweetened with stevia are a safe, naturally sourced way for people to enjoy sweet foods and beverages with fewer calories but without sacrificing taste.
Overweight and obesity continue to be a major public health concern for the world’s children. The World Health Organization estimates that 40 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese as of 2012.3 This is especially concerning because studies show that children and adolescents who are obese have a 70 to 80 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.4
Based on a report issued on sweetener calorie intake, the good news is that between the years of 1999-2000 and 2005-2008, there was a decline in the percentage of daily calories coming from added sugars among children in the United States.5 However, children still consume many unwanted calories from sweetener sources, suggesting a need for reduction strategies. On average, boys consume about 360 calories from added sugars, compared to 280 calories consumed by girls. Teen boys consume about 440 calories from added sugars, and teen girls get 314 calories from added sugars.
Foods and beverages containing stevia can play an important role in decreasing calories from unwanted sweeteners in children’s diets. There are now thousands of products containing naturally sourced stevia on the market ranging from beverages, to salad dressing to snack bars that allow children to consume foods and beverages that taste great without added calories.
Multiple global regulatory organizations, including the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, European Food Safety Authority, and the Food & Drug Administration have determined that high purity stevia extract is safe for consumption by the general population including children, when consumed within the recommended levels. To learn more about stevia safety, please visit the stevia safety page.
During pregnancy, just like during other life stages, women may have the desire for an occasional sweet treat. Stevia can help by providing a plant-based, zero calorie sweetener that is available
in a wide variety of food and beverage products.
In addition, women who experience gestational diabetes need to closely monitor their intakes of all carbohydrates during pregnancy. Because stevia has been shown to have no impact on blood glucose or insulin levels and contains no carbohydrates, stevia can be a great alternative to nutritive sweeteners during pregnancy.
Women can feel safe knowing that multiple global regulatory organizations, including the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, European Food Safety Authority, and the Food & Drug Administration have reviewed the evidence and determined that high purity stevia extract is safe for consumption by the general population, including pregnant women and children, when consumed within the recommended levels. To learn more about stevia safety, please visit the stevia safety page.
Despite stevia’s known safety, some media and concerned consumers have questioned if stevia causes infertility. There is no scientific evidence that supports thisaccusation. The fertility studies that have come into question in the past used crude stevia extracts, which is not the high purity stevia leaf extract form that is approved for use globally in foods and beverages. All of the information contained on this site refers to high purity stevia leaf extract. For further information on this distinction, please see our terminology section.
Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. This leads to an increased concentration of glucose in the blood known as hyperglycemia.
The World Health Organization has indicated that there is an emerging global epidemic of diabetes that can be traced back to rapid increases in overweight, obesity and physical inactivity. They estimate that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes and that by 2030, diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death.6
For those living with diabetes, blood sugar control is critically important to staying healthy. Diet and exercise can play an important role in managing blood sugar levels. Stevia, a plant-based, zero calorie sweetener, can help manage blood sugar levels for both children and adults diagnosed with diabetes. Stevia does not contain carbohydrates and thus has no impact on blood sugar or insulin levels and does not contribute to glycemic load.
More specifically, research has been done clearly documenting that steviol glycosides have no impact on glucose homeostasis among people with diabetes. A randomized controlled trial among 122 adults over 16 weeks who were given four doses of approximately 330 mg of steviol equivalents over the course of a day compared to placebo had no impact on blood sugar levels. For this study, >97% rebaudioside A was used.7
Additionally, the position paper on nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed five randomized controlled trials examining the effects of stevia compared with placebos on metabolic outcomes. The collective takeaway from these studies was a report of minimal to no effects on blood glucose, insulin levels, hypertension and body weight.8 In one study showing minimal effects, subjects with type 2 diabetes reported a reduced postprandial blood glucose and glucagon response after a test meal of stevia versus placebo.9
Stevia is now found in thousands of products around the world from salad dressings to beverages and snack bars and it allows people with diabetes to enjoy sweet tastes while managing their carbohydrate intake.1,2 Often stevia is used in combination with nutritive sweeteners like sugar or in foods and beverages that contain other simple carbohydrates, so it is still important to check ingredient labels for total carbohydrate content and overall nutritionals. For more on how stevia appears on ingredient labels, please see our “Stevia At Home” section.
People with allergies
In 2010, the European Food Safety Administration (EFSA) reviewed the literature to determine if there was any cause for concern regarding the potential for allergenicity of the stevia plant. At that time, the reviewers concluded that “steviol glycosides are not reactive and are not metabolized to reactive compounds, therefore, it is unlikely that the steviol glycosides under evaluation should cause by themselves allergic reactions when consumed in foods. In addition, stevia leaves have a long history of use as a food ingredient in a number of countries with no other published reports of allergic reactions in either healthy or allergic population”.
Additionally, while there is no scientific reason to suggest genetically modified crops or “GMOs” cause allergies, it is worth pointing out that stevia plants are not genetically modified, and therefore there should be no concerns regarding potential for allergenicity. For more on how stevia is grown, see the stevia farming section.
- European Food Safety Authority, Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food. Scientific opinion on the safety of steviol glycosides for the proposed uses as a food additive. EFSA Journal, 8(4):1537. 2010. [2. Technical data (pg 9)]. www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1537.htm
- European Commission Regulation (EU) No 1131/2011 of 11 November 2011 amending Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to steviol glycosides. Official Journal of the European Union. December 11, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2013: http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:295:0205:0211:EN:PDF
- World Health Organization. Obesity and Overweight. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/ . Accessed on October 15, 2014
- Guo, S.S. and W.C. Chumlea, Tracking of body mass index in children in relation to overweight in adulthood. Am J Clin Nutr, 1999. 70(1): p. 145S-8S.
- Ervin RB, Kit BK, Carroll MD, Ogden CL. Consumption of added sugar among U.S. children and adolescents, 2005–2008. NCHS data brief no 87. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.
- World Health Organization. Diabetes. http://www.who.int/topics/diabetes_mellitus/en/. Accessed October 15, 2014
- Maki et al., Chronic consumption of rebaudioside A, a steviol glycoside, in men and women with type 2 diabetes mellitus, Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2008;46:S47-S53
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. 2012; 112 (5): 739-758.
- Gregersen S, et al., Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects. Metabolism. 2004; 53(1): 73-76.