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Stevia

Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia) is a herb where either the leaf extract or isolated 'steviosides' are used for sweetening. Unlike other sweeteners, stevia is 'natural' (rather than artificial) and associated with both beneficial pharmacological effects and some toxicity.

Our evidence-based analysis on stevia features 86 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Stevia

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

Stevia is the common word to refer to the plant stevia rebaudiana which is the sweetest of the stevia species of plants and historically used as a sweetening agent. This sweetness is traced back to glycoside (bound to sugar) compounds of steviol, with the two most important steviol glycosides being stevioside and rebaudioside A.

Unlike other sweetening agents such as aspartame or sucralose, ingestion of stevia in feasible doses confers pharmacological activity. Ingestion of either stevioside or rebaudioside A will result in a circulating level of steviol and its conjugate (steviol glucuronide) which can then exert effects in the body.

In low doses, stevia consumption appears to be associated with general anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects; these effects have been linked to protection of the kidneys, pancreas, liver, and brain when they precede damaging stressors (so although there is some organ protective effects, it is merely due to the general properties of steviol rather than a unique mechanism). Higher doses appear to be linked to fertility problems in animals, and although it is somewhat contested of an issue (some studies in male rats not showing anti-fertility actions, lack of human studies) it may be prudent to not overconsume stevia due to this.

In regards to the genotoxic effects, although overconsumption (or selective choosing of bacterial plates to conduct an Ames test in) is associated with genotoxic effects the potency of this genotoxic effect when it occurs appears to be quite minimal. Cancer causing effects of stevia overconsumption may not be overly relevant due to the low potency of the steviol glycosides and the inherent antioxidant properties also conferring a protective effects (perhaps regulating its own genotoxicity, definitely reduces the reliability) and as such should not be too much of a concern.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Preferentially, stevia is dosed according to taste (as it is used as a sweetener). For prudency, and due to some toxicological data on this herb, an estimated upper daily intake of around 8mg/kg should be used (for a 150lb human, this is 540mg). This dose is within the current recommended intake limits, and is sufficient for anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects but insufficient for any observed toxic or infertility inducing effects of stevia.

That being said, some human studies using prolonged intake of up to 1.5g daily show no adverse effects.

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Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine Plus members

The Human Effect Matrix summarizes human studies to tell you what effects Stevia has on your body, how much evidence there is, and how strong these effects are.

Full details are available to Examine Plus members.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Minor Low See all 3 studies
There may be a very small glucose reducing effect of stevia consumption, but it does not appear to apply to everybody and is unreliable. Requires more evidence.
grade-b Minor Moderate See all 4 studies
There appears to be a reduction in blood pressure associated with stevia only in persons with high blood pressure, this may be a transient effect that is normalized upon supplement cessation.
grade-c Minor - See study
A reduction of cardiac mass has been detected over long term usage with stevia, which is thought to be secondary to a reduction in blood pressure
grade-c Minor - See study
Stevia, in place of caloric sweeteners, has been associated with reducing whole-day food intake.
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on appetite have been detected with stevia (in isolation)
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on HDL-C has been detected with stevia
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on HbA1c serum levels has been detected
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No significant influence on heart rate detected with stevia consumption
grade-c - - See study
No significant effect on total cholesterol levels have been detected with stevia consumption
grade-c - - See study
No significant influence on circulating triglycerides has been noted with stevia consumption

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Things to Note

Other Functions:

Also Known As

Rebiana, rebaudioside A, stevioside, steviol, steviol glycosides, sweetleaf, sugarleaf

Do Not Confuse With

Rubus suavissimus (Chinese sweet leaf)

  • Despite being a sweetener, stevia has a somewhat bitter aftertaste

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Click here to see all 86 references.