Adverse Effects of Stevia

In the realm of alternative sweeteners, stevia has been a popular pick for individuals wanting a natural, low-calorie sugar substitute. Praised for its sweetness without the guilt of calories, stevia has found its way into countless products, from beverages to baked goods. However, beneath its seemingly innocent facade lies a complex web of potential adverse effects that deserve closer scrutiny. In this blog, we delve into the lesser-known side of stevia. Thus, explore the adverse effects of stevia and the impact it may have on your health.

About Stevia Sweetener

Stevia sweetener is obtained from the stevia rebaudiana plants. It is more concentrated and 250-300 times sweeter than regular sugar, according to NIH-published research. This sweetener has been used as a sugar replacement and herbal supplement for a long time. Therefore, it has been marked completely safe for human consumption. Moreover, the U.S.A.’s Food and Drug Administration(FDA) marks high-purity steviol glycosides as totally safe, sugar-free natural sweeteners. However, the FDA disapproves and doesn’t recognise crude stevia leaves and extracts as food supplements and sweeteners. This gives rise to controversy regarding stevia’s use as a sweetener and raises questions about the dangers of stevia.

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Stevia Types

Stevia is available in different forms. Some are marked safe for daily usage, and some still await their safety trials. They include:

  • Green Stevia Leaves: This is the purest type of stevia. However, despite being the purest, the FDA doesn’t approve this form. Still, human trials are awaited to mark it safe for human consumption.
  • Stevia Extracts: This stevia type is made from drying stevia leaves that are steeped in hot water. Then, it is filtered and purified to obtain the extract. FDA approves only such stevia leaf extracts that have more than 95% steviol glycoside.
  • Stevia Blends: These stevia products are made by blending stevia leaf extracts with other sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Stevia blends also have brand names like Truvia and Stevia Raw.

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Risks and Side Effects from Stevia

Risks and Side Effects from Stevia

Stevia, like any substance, can potentially cause side effects in some individuals. According to the WHO, the daily intake limit for steviol and stevia equivalent is 4 mg per kg of your body weight. This simply means 12 mg of high-purity stevia leaves or extracts per kg of your body weight per day. Also, experts advise against the usage of highly purified stevia as a sweetener. Here are some major side effects of Stevia:

Gastrointestinal Issues

Some people may experience gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating, gas, indigestion, nausea, or stomach cramps after consuming stevia. This could be due to the body’s inability to digest certain components of stevia. Or simply because they are sensitive to the sweetener. However, there have been no human trials done till now, but animal trials published by the NIH show stevia consumption lessens colon inflammation and reduces diarrhoea.

Kidney Ailments

Stevia may have mild diuretic effects, meaning it could increase urine production. With urine, out goes water and electrolytes from the body. At the same time, this can be beneficial for some, such as those with mild fluid retention. Excessive diuresis could lead to dehydration if not accompanied by adequate fluid intake. Therefore, don’t consume stevia daily beyond the recommended dose.

Initially, researches suggested stevia could damage the kidney. But recent studies like the 2018 study published by the National Library of Medicine revealed stevia doesn’t affect your kidneys. Instead, stevia consumption showed a fall in creatinine, blood glucose, uric acid, microalbumin, etc. So, the myth busted!

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Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to Stevia are rare but possible. Symptoms may include itching, swelling, hives, or, in severe cases, anaphylaxis. Individuals who are allergic to Asteraceae & Compositae plant family. Plant allergies including ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies, may be more likely to experience an allergic reaction to Stevia.

Blood Pressure Effects

Stevia has been reported to potentially lower blood pressure, which can be beneficial for those with hypertension. According to studies published by the NIH, stevia has the properties of a vasodilator. Stevia helps widen arteries and veins and thus helps lower blood pressure. However, individuals who already have low blood pressure or are taking medications for hypertension should use stevia cautiously. Excessive intake may exacerbate hypotension.

Hormonal Effects

Studies published by the ScienceDirect website have suggested that high doses of stevia may have hormonal effects. Human sperm cells, when exposed to stevia, witnessed a rise in progesterone levels. These include effects on fertility and reproductive health. However, human studies have not conclusively confirmed these findings. More research is needed to understand the potential impact on human hormones.

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Medication Interactions

Stevia may interact with certain specific medications. For example, it may enhance the effects of medicinal drugs that dip blood sugar levels, like insulin or oral anti-diabetic drugs, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Additionally, stevia may interact with medications that affect blood pressure or heart function. Individuals on any medication should consult with their doctor on priority before consuming stevia regularly.

Metallic or Bitter Aftertaste

Some people may perceive a metallic or bitter aftertaste when consuming products containing Stevia, particularly in higher concentrations or when combined with certain ingredients. This taste sensation can be unpleasant for some individuals.

It’s important to note that the majority of people can consume Stevia without experiencing adverse effects, especially when used in moderation. However, individuals with underlying health conditions or sensitivities should exercise caution. Always consult a doctor if you have concerns about incorporating stevia into your diet.

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Who Shouldn’t Use Stevia Tablets?

Following are the people who should avoid stevia powder or tablets:

  • Although rare, some people can develop or have allergies to stevia.
  • Some people can be extra sensitive to stevia and have a high risk of dropping their blood pressure levels. This is because stevia has diuretic properties.
  • Individuals who use certain medicines that stevia can interact with.

Unsafe Types of Stevia Powder

There are many types of stevia available in the market. Not all have been approved by the FDA. Steviol glycoside is divided into five major categories. The majority of studies and trials have done research on two compounds, stevioside and Reb A (rebaudioside). However, a 2016 study published on the ScienceDirect website revealed studying human faecal samples and concluded all forms of steviol compound are safe for use.

But there still isn’t any study that marks less refined stevia compounds as completely safe. Also, the FDA doesn’t recognise the stevia crude extracts and leaves as safe. Moreover, in many countries, adulteration has been found in stevia sweeteners.

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Stevia in Pregnancy

Stevia in less and measured amounts doesn’t pose any risk during pregnancy. Older research studies published by the National Library of Medicine have shown stevia to be non-toxic. However, if the stevia is impure and has mixed ingredients like saccharin, it can harm the foetus. Therefore, only buy stevia from reputed brands.


While stevia may offer a seemingly sweet solution to sugar cravings, its adverse effects cannot be ignored. From gastrointestinal discomfort to potential hormonal disturbances, the use of stevia warrants caution and moderation. As with any dietary choice, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the risks and make the right and rational decisions based on your individual health conditions. By understanding the potential adverse effects of stevia, we can navigate the world of sweeteners more wisely. Remember, moderation is of utmost importance. When it boils down to health, knowledge truly is the sweetest reward.

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FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is stevia OK for fatty liver?

Yes, stevia is completely safe for people suffering from fatty liver. Sweeteners like stevia form a protective layer for fatty liver. Another advantage of using stevia is that it provides scope for better glycemic control.

Should stevia be avoided?

The following individuals should avoid stevia:
– Allergy
– Oversensitive diuretics
– Cancer Patients
– Diabetes patients with uncontrolled sugar levels

How many teaspoons of stevia is safe per day?

Since stevia is much more concentrated than sugar, the quantity is not right to be measured in teaspoons. Stevia is 250 to 300 multiple times more sweet than sugar. The WHO recommends 4 mg of stevia per kilogram of body weight.

Last Updated on by Dr. Damanjit Duggal 


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