So you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Stevia lately, a new zero calorie sweetener that’s becoming pretty popular. Earlier this month we talked about the difference between stevia extract and stevia whole leaves. But is it a safe alternative to other low-cal sweeteners?
The word “stevia” refers to the entire plant and its components, only some of which are sweet. The sweet tasting components of the stevia plant are called steviol glycosides or rebaudioside A.
Stevia has been used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years and it’s been widely used for decades as a sweetener in Japan and Paraguay . In the US, stevia sweeteners are primarily found in tabletop products and reduced calorie beverages.
Recent studies, including human studies on safety, metabolism and intake, have shown that stevia sweeteners are safe to use. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has conducted a thorough scientific review of the existing scientific data on steviol glycosides and concluded that they are safe for use in food and beverages.
Based on the wealth of published research, independent scientific experts in both the U.S. and globally have concluded that stevia sweeteners are safe for people of all ages and populations and an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of four mg/kg body weight (expressed as steviol) has been established. The estimated intake of steviol glycosides even among the highest consumers does not exceed the ADI.
Clinical studies have also shown that steviol glycosides, meeting purity criteria established by JECFA, have no effect on either blood pressure or blood glucose response, which means people with diabetes can use stevia. Another benefit of stevia sweeteners: there are no known allergies to stevia sweeteners.
As an all-natural sugar substitute with zero calories, stevia sweeteners can help reduce or replace calories in foods and beverages and offer low and no calorie alternatives for people looking to lose and control weight. Consuming beverages and foods with stevia sweeteners as part of a healthful diet and lifestyle, including regular physical activity, can assist with weight control and weight loss.