What are the Dangers of Stevia?

You may or may not have heard about the dangers of stevia.  Stevia rebaudiana is a plant that is indigenous to South America.  Native American tribes from Brazil and Peru have long used the plant for a variety of purposes.  In more recent years, the extracts from the plant have come into use as sweeteners in countries like Japan.  However, the fears over Stevia have lead countries like the United States to steer clear of Stevia since the early 1990’s.

So what is the evidence for or against the dangers of Stevia?

Cancer Fears

Like other sweeteners, one of the fears when it comes to the dangers of stevia, is that it may be a cancer risk.  However, since the mid-80’s, a multitude of studies have not confirmed any connection between the dietary addition of stevia—or of stevia extracts—to the higher incidence of cancer.  In fact, approximately 75% of studies have shown that stevia is perfectly safe, while the remaining 25% of studies were inconclusive.  These results strongly suggest that stevia is not a cancer-causing agent.

Contraceptive Fears

A further fear when it came to the dangers of stevia has to do with reproduction.  In the traditional medicines of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, women often used stevia as a contraceptive.  These folk traditions lead many to fear that stevia could have a harmful effect on the reproductive abilities of women.  Adding to these fears were studies showing that lab mice had decreased sperm motility when exposed to stevia.

So are there reproductive dangers of stevia?

As early as 1991, studies conducted on hamsters in Thailand found that not only did the habitual intake of stevia not have an effect on reproduction, but also, in fact, that it might have some beneficial effects such as the creation of insulin in the body.

Benefits of Stevia

With both Coca Cola and Pepsi beginning to invest in stevia it is likely that American corporations will begin to pressure the FDA to lift the current ban on stevia and that soon you may start seeing products on the shelves of your local supermarket that include it as an ingredient.  The studies and stevia’s track record in the Far East imply that stevia is safe for human use.

When a product has this kind of negative association swirling around it, we might wonder, however, if stevia can escape the poisonous associations surrounding its name.  Although science may tell us that stevia is safe, it takes us a long time before we can fully rid ourselves of the semiconscious notions that we may have in regard to a product.

One of the reported benefits of stevia is that it helps with obesity.  Since stevia is calorie free and carries no carbohydrate load, it has proven a great aid for those trying to manage their weight.  Stevia acts as a surrogate for sugar, helping the obese individual get their sugar fix without suffering the consequences to his or her weight. 

In addition, not only will stevia help you regulate your weight, it is also one of Nature’s bacteria fighters.  Unlike sugar, stevia is not as harmful to your teeth.  It will not increase the rate at which your teeth deteriorate.  In fact, stevia is such strong bacteria fighter that some researchers have suggested using it as possible aid against the candida albicans virus.

Finally, studies also suggest that replacing regular sugar with stevia can help individuals lower their blood pressure.  This is because stevia does not increase the blood sugar levels in the way that regular sugar does.

Put simply, stevia will probably prove to be a beneficial additive to American products once it has cleared FDA barriers.