Stevia is receiving a lot of attention lately. It’s the latest in a line of sweeteners meant to satisfy your sweet tooth while promoting better health than aspartame or plain old sugar. To health gurus, Stevia’s acceptance as a “safe” food product by the FDA means that the establishment is finally getting hip to this sugar alternative. But more cautious observers wonder if the herb has some negative side effects that outweigh its usefulness as a sweetener. Who’s right? There are some commonly and not-so-commonly reported side effects to Stevia usage. Here are eight side effects that you may experience when consuming Stevia:
Some users of Stevia have reported dizzy spells, although this doesn’t appear to be a long-term hazard.
Bloating and Nausea
Bloating, nausea, and mild gas–more common and not very fun side effects reported by stevia users.
Mild Muscle Pains
Other users have reported mild muscle pains, as well.
Some users have reported numbness, although this is not long-lasting either.
Some studies have shown that Stevia does, in fact, have a contraceptive effect on the body, although other studies have shown that it does not.
This is particularly controversial because in one study, Stevia was made into a mutagenic compound, meaning one that causes cancer. However, that study has been criticized for being poorly conducted. Other studies suggest that it does not have any carcinogenic effect on the body.
Interferes with Blood Sugar
Studies have shown that Stevia can actually lower blood sugar, which means it should be used with caution by people with diabetes.
Lowers blood pressure
Studies also show that Stevia may play a role in lowering blood pressure. People who have low blood pressure already should avoid using the sweetener as a sugar substitute.
Stevia was first introduced in the United States in the mid 1990s as part of the low-carb diet craze, as it does not have calories or carbohydrates. However, it was only sold as an herbal supplement. In time, and only after much controversy, it was granted approval by the FDA and is now available as a food product.
It has been designated a safe product by the FDA, based on the results of consuming 1500 mg per day for two years. Though it’s new to the US, it has been used by several cultures, particularly in South America, as a sweetener for centuries. Some people feel that since it’s all-natural and has been used in other countries with no apparent long-term side effects, that it’s perfectly safe for use. However, it is recommended that pregnant or breast-feeding women say “no” to the sweetener–at least until more long-term research has been performed.
As always, if you have any questions about the safety of Stevia or any other herb, consult with your primary care physician. She will be up-to-date on the latest research and will be able to advise you on which sweeteners you should use.