Safe for the Family
Life can be just a little sweeter when you choose foods and beverages sweetened with zero-calorie, plant-based stevia for your family. Stevia has been used as a natural-origin sweetener in foods and beverages for hundreds of years in South America. Stevia was first commercialized as a sweetener in Japan in the 1970s, and to date, high-purity stevia leaf extracts are approved for use in a broad selection of food and beverage categories in more than 150 countries. In addition to stevia’s long history of use, there are more than 200 studies that support the science and safety of high-purity stevia leaf extract. The use of high-purity stevia leaf extract in foods and beverages at the levels approved has been deemed safe by all major regulatory agencies around the world, meeting the criteria required for an ingredient to be used in foods and beverages.
Stevia Is Safe for The Whole Family
Global regulatory organizations, such as the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)1,2, several major regional and many country-specific regulatory authorities have given stevia their safety stamp of approval. You will find stevia in foods and beverages worldwide in more than 150 countries and counting, including the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, India, China, Malaysia and many more. Experts agree stevia is safe for everyone including children, women who are pregnant or nursing and people with diabetes and, that it offers many benefits:
- Stevia leaf extract is naturally sourced from the stevia plant.
- Stevia is zero calorie so it allows for the enjoyment of sweet taste without unwanted calories.
- Stevia can help lower blood glucose when used to displace sugar, carbohydrates and calories in the diet with reduced-sugar reduced-calorie foods and beverages.
- Stevia on its own provides no glycemic load.
- Stevia is tooth friendly.
- Stevia is safe and suitable for the family.
Estimates of stevia intake around the world indicate it is unlikely adults or children, including diabetic adults and children, will exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI).The ADI for stevia is the amount of stevia a person can consume daily over a lifetime without any significant health risk (the stevia ADI is 4 mg of steviol equivalents per kg body weight per day).
A Special Note to Parents
Many adults are overweight or obese. Excess energy (calories), sugar and fat intake have been called out as significant contributors to rising obesity and obesity-linked diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults and children reduce their intake of sugar to less than 10% of total calories, and recommends a further reduction to below 5% for additional health benefits.3
In 2016, the WHO estimated that 41 million children under the age of five were overweight. Overweight and obese children are more prone to stay obese into adulthood, and have a higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.4 Many factors including genetics, diet, physical activity and environmental cues are implicated in the obesity epidemic among children. If you are a parent trying to keep tabs on the amount of sweet calories in your child’s diet, stevia can help you manage your family eating plan.
Children, like adults, often eat and drink more calories than recommended. A report issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found boys consume 16.3% of their daily calories from added sugars, and girls get 15.5%.5 For children, almost half of these added sugar calories come from beverages, according to the most recent analysis provided to the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC, 2015).6 Studies to date have shown replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with beverages sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners results in a reduction in energy intake, and modest weight loss, even if some calorie compensation occurs.7
High-purity stevia extract is a useful tool in helping to reduce calories and sugar intake. Stevia alone cannot solve all weight management challenges, but stevia is one tool in the toolbox of better health. You can cut unwanted calories by choosing packaged foods and beverages containing stevia, or in your own kitchen, you can use it to replace or reduce other kinds of caloric sweeteners in your family’s favorite recipes.
Stevia is Safe for Pregnant Women and Nursing Moms
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 which 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 no independent effect on blood glucose or insulin levels but can help lower blood glucose levels when used to displace sugar, carbohydrates and calories in foods formulated to be reduced calorie and reduced sugar, stevia can be a great alternative to nutritive sweeteners during pregnancy.
Women can feel safe knowing multiple regulatory organizations across the globe, including the JECFA, EFSA, and the US FDA have reviewed the safety evidence, and determined the use of high-purity stevia extract is safe for the general population, including pregnant and nursing women and children, when consumed within the recommended levels.
Despite stevia’s known safety, some media and concerned consumers have questioned if stevia causes infertility. There is no scientific evidence on high-purity stevia leaf extracts supporting this accusation. The fertility studies that have come into question in the past used crude stevia extracts, which differs from the high-purity stevia leaf extract form approved for use globally in foods and beverages. Studies with high-purity stevia leaf extract that is approved for use globally have observed no adverse effects on fertility, pregnancy, or lactation, even at high doses. 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.
To learn more in-depth information about stevia science and safety, visit our Health professionals section.
- JECFA. 73rd Meeting, Compendium of Food Additive Specifications. Mongraph. 2010;17-22.
- JECFA. 84th Meeting. Compendium of Food Additive Specifications. Mongraph 20. 2017.
- World Health Organization. WHO calls on countries to reduce sugar intake among adults and children. 2015. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
- Gibson S, et al. What can the food and drink industry do to help achieve the 5% free sugars goal? Perspect Public Health. 2017 Jul;137(4):237-247. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/
- World Health Organization. Facts and figures on childhood obesity. 2017. Available at: http://www.who.int/end-childhood-obesity/facts/en/
- Ervin RB, et al. 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. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db87.htm
- US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
- Gibson S, et al. What can the food and drink industry do to help achieve the 5% free sugars goal? Perspect Public Health. 2017 Jul;137(4):237-247. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1757913917703419
*Sweeteners are generally not recommended for infants and very young children / toddlers due to their increased energy requirements and focus on optimal growth.