Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener. Several people use it as a substitute for sugar to reduce their calorie intake. Made of steviol glycosides, it is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. So, we have the ultimate question lingering around – is stevia worth it? Research tells us something we must know. Read on.
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How Safe Is Stevia?
There are animal studies that state how stevia can be toxic to the kidneys as well as the reproductive system. It might even mutate genes. Which is one reason the FDA doesn’t allow whole-leaf or unrefined stevia in foods. Well, all of this is just one side of the story.
The other side of the story shows later studies stating that stevia is safe in moderate amounts. The FDA, in 2008, awarded its very first Generally Recognized as Safe status to stevia extracts, and they have been in the market since without any major safety concerns.
Despite all of this, we think you must know the side effects of stevia. Because it is important to be aware and informed. Always.
What Are The Side Effects Of Stevia?
1. Stevia Can Cause Gastrointestinal Issues
Intake of highly refined stevia can lead to nausea. The steviosides in stevia can irritate your stomach and cause bloating or reduce your appetite. Stevia, being an artificial sweetener, can cause other digestive problems as well – studies have shown how such substances can lead to certain GI symptoms (1).
In some cases, consumption of stevia can also lead to diarrhea.
2. Leads To Hypoglycemia
This is a benefit that might manifest into a side effect with overuse. Stevia can help control blood sugar levels. But heavy stevia intake (along with blood sugar medications) can often lead to hypoglycemia – a condition where blood sugar levels can go dangerously low (2). Hence, we recommend you to stay away from stevia and take your doctor’s advice if you are already on diabetes medications.
3. Might Damage Kidneys
According to the National Kidney Foundation, stevia might have undesirable effects on the kidneys. Also, since this sweetener has come into the market only recently, we don’t know its full impact yet (3).
Also, stevia is a diuretic. It increases the speed at which the body expels water and electrolytes from the body – since the kidneys are responsible for flushing out toxins from the body, some experts believe stevia can stress the kidneys out.
But there is one conflicting study that shows how stevia intake can reduce the risk of kidney damage (4).
4. Can Lead To Endocrine Disruption
There is a possibility that the steviol glycosides can interfere with hormones controlled by the endocrine system. According to one 2016 study, sperm cells, when introduced to steviol, saw an increase in progesterone hormone (secreted by the female reproductive system) (5).
5. Can Cause Allergies
You might experience oral allergies to stevia if you are allergic to ragweed. This happens when your body mistakes the proteins in the food you eat as pollen and launches an immune response to react. Symptoms of the allergies include swelling and itching of the lips, mouth, throat, and tongue, abdominal pain, and even vomiting.
6. Stevia Can Cause Numbness
Though there is very little information on this, some anecdotal evidence speaks about individuals experiencing numbness in their hands and feet (and even on the tongue) post taking stevia.
Watch out for these reactions. If you notice these symptoms, stop use and visit your doctor immediately.
7. Can Lead To Sore Muscles
There is little research on this. Certain sources say that taking stevia can lead to aching muscles and muscle soreness. If you find your muscles paining, stop intake and check with your doctor.
These are the side effects of stevia – but did you know stevia might also interact with certain medications?
Does Stevia Interact With Any Drugs?
Stevia might interfere with certain medications. Hence, keep a watch on these combinations.
- Stevia And Lithium
We already saw that stevia has diuretic properties. This property might increase serum lithium levels and lead to serious issues. Hence, if you are already taking some form of lithium, talk to your doctor before consuming stevia.
- Stevia And Antidiabetes Drugs
We have seen this as well. Taking stevia can lower blood sugar levels, and if you are also taking antidiabetes medication, it can lower your sugar levels way too much. So, talk to your doctor before using it. He might change the dose of your diabetes medication.
Some of these medications include Amaryl, DiaBetas, Actos, and Avandia.
- Stevia And Antihypertensive Drugs
Some research also shows that stevia can lower blood pressure. Which is why you need to take care if you are also taking blood pressure medications.
Some of these medications include Cozaar, Diovan, Norvasc, and Lasix.
Stevia could have been marketed as the ultimate (and healthy) sugar alternative. But there’s a catch – only when you take it in moderation. It sure has no calories. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be aware.
Tell us how this post has helped you. Just leave a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is stevia safe to be used during pregnancy?
Yes, but we suggest you talk to your doctor before doing so as studies offer mixed opinions.
Can stevia be a part of the keto diet?
Yes, stevia sure can be a great addition to a keto diet. But remember, moderation is key.
1. “Artificial sweeteners…”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Hypoglycemic efficient of aquatic…”. US National Library of Medicine.
3. “Are sugar substitutes okay…”. National Kidney Foundation.
4. “Steviol reduces MDCK cyst…”. PLOS Journals.
5. “In vitro bioassay investigations…”. ScienceDirect.
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