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Stevia is an herb that is used as a sweetener. The FDA allows only a purified ingredient from stevia as a food additive. Animal and laboratory studies suggest stevia products can suppress inflammation in the body or help regulate blood sugar, but studies of benefits in humans are unclear.
Stevia can be used as a low-calorie sweetener.
Studies on whether stevia may lower blood pressure are mixed.
Animals studies suggest stevia products can help to regular blood sugar, but human data are lacking.
There are no data to support this use.
Do Not Take If
You are pregnant or nursing.
Because non-nutritive sweeteners including stevia are becoming more prevalent in beverages, foods, supplements, and medications, individuals may not be aware of their actual consumption of such ingredients.
Stevia rebaudiana is an herb native to Brazil and Paraguay. Its raw leaves as well as purified extracts such as stevioside and steviol have been used as sweeteners and promoted as sugar substitutes for diabetics (2). Stevia extract is many times sweeter than table sugar (1), but only purified steviol glycosides have the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status by the FDA for use in food (8).
In vitro and animal studies sugest that stevia has anti-inflammatory (5)(6), hepatoprotective and renoprotective effects (11). In humans, small studies suggest stevia may reduce hypertension and hyperglycemia (3)(4)(13), but a meta-analysis of steviol glycosides on type 2 diabetes biomarkers did not find significant benefit (14). In an RCT comparing low-calorie sweeteners, ingestion of rebaudioside did not appear to affect body weight (15). Additional studies are needed to clarify any benefits.
Mechanism of Action
The mechanisms underlying the antihypertensive effect of stevioside are still unclear, although it is believed to act as a calcium channel antagonist, similar to the drug verapamil (9). Other studies indicate steviosides are metabolized in the gut where bacteria provide an aglycone metabolite that then enters the blood circulation (16).
In vitro studies suggest stevioside suppresses production of inflammatory mediators (6). In mouse skin, it inhibited tumor-promoting 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (5). In other animal studies, stevia products inhibited hepatic gluconeogenesis (10) and increased insulin sensitivity (11).
Laboratory studies indicate weak mutagenic activity with large doses (7).
Pregnant women should not consume this herb, as there is a lack of knowledge on how non-nutritive sweeteners including stevia may affect offspring (16).
Four patients in a study experienced abdominal fullness, myalgia, nausea, and asthenia following consumption of 500 mg stevioside powder. Symptoms resolved after 1 week of treatment (4).
Verapamil: Animal studies suggest stevia may have additive antihypertensive effects (9). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.
Antidiabetics: Animal studies suggest stevia may affect blood glucose levels (10). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.
Dosage (OneMSK Only)
More about stevia, a non-approved sweetener. Harv Womens Health Watch 2005;12(10):6-7.