Safety of Stevia Sweeteners/Steviol Glycosides
Studies clearly support the safety of stevia sweeteners. In December 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated it has no questions regarding the conclusion of expert panels that rebaudioside A is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use as a general purpose sweetener. To date, FDA has stated that it has no questions in response to three separate stevia sweetener GRAS notifications.
In order for a new food or beverage ingredient to enter the U.S. food supply, the ingredient must either be a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved food additive or GRAS. The quality and quantity of scientific evidence required for a substance to achieve GRAS status are the same as for FDA food additive approval. For GRAS, however, there is a general knowledge requirement and acceptance of that knowledge by qualified scientists. Publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal is the mechanism normally used to establish that the necessary scientific information is generally available.
Recent studies, including human studies on safety, metabolism and intake, support the safety of stevia sweeteners as sugar substitutes. 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. Consuming more than the ADI does not mean an effect will occur because the ADI includes a wide margin of safety above what is deemed the "No Observed Effect Level." The estimated intake of steviol glycosides even among the highest consumers does not exceed the ADI. Food and Chemical Toxicology published a special supplement on the topic of stevia sweetener safety in May 2008.
Further, clinical studies show that steviol glycosides, meeting purity criteria established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), have no effect on either blood pressure or blood glucose response, indicating stevia sweeteners are safe for use by individuals with diabetes. With zero calories, stevia benefits people with diabetes offering a sweetener with greater variety and flexibility in budgeting total calorie intake and assisting with weight management.
Another benefit of stevia as a sugar substitute: there are no known allergies to stevia sweeteners.
Based on studies conducted in the past several years, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has concluded that stevia sweeteners are metabolized by a common pathway. This begins in the gut where the steviol glycosides are broken down to steviol. Steviol is excreted in the urine as steviol glucuronide. The metabolized components of steviol glycosides essentially leave the body and there is no accumulation.