Monday, September 13, 2010
Just WHAT is Stevia?
I am sure you have seen the television commercials for it, you know the one with the green leafs and proclaiming it is "all natural." So,m why don't you see stevia on supermarket shelves next to the Sweet’N Low or Equal? The is a GRAS List that is the jusdiction of the Food and Drug Adminstration. The GRAS List is a list of food additives that are 'GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE' (GRAS). This means the food is considered safe by experts, and so is exempted from the usual Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) food additive tolerance requirements, The substance must be shown to be "generally recognized" as safe under the conditions of its intended use.
The hasn’t approved stevia because they do not have enough data to conclude that the use of stevia would be safe in food. The U.S. isn’t alone. Canada doesn’t allow food companies to add stevia to their products. Nor does the European Union. In 1999 the scientific panel that reviews the safety of food ingredients for the EU concluded that stevioside is “not acceptable” as a sweetener because of unresolved concerns about its toxicity. In 1998, a United Nations expert panel came to essentially the same conclusion. Further verdicts about the use of stevia remain out or are inconclusive.
The herb of which stevia is dervived has been consumed without apparent harm in different parts of the world for many years, they argue. No reports of any adverse reactions have surfaced after 30 years of use in Japan, for instance. But the Japanese don’t consume large amounts of stevia.
In the U.S., we like to go to extremes. So a significant number of people here might consume much greater amounts. Stevioside seems to affect the male reproductive organ system,” European scientists concluded last year. When male rats were fed high doses of stevioside for 22 months, sperm production was reduced, the weight of seminal vesicles (which produce seminal fluid) declined, and there was an increase in cell proliferation in their testicles, which could cause infertility or other problems.1 And when female hamsters were fed large amounts of a derivative of stevioside called steviol, they had fewer and smaller offspring.2 Would small amounts of stevia also cause reproductive problems? No one knows. Do you want to risk it? Well I am not.
In the laboratory, steviol can be converted into a mutagenic compound, which may promote cancer by causing mutations in the cells’ genetic material (DNA). Hey, the same thing was said about Sweet-N-Low and Equal and Nutra-Sweet.
All of this means is that some issues still persists with stevia that must be clarified for the FDA before any approval can be considered.
J. Food Hyg. Soc. Japan 26: 169, 1985.
Drug Chem. Toxicol. 21: 207, 1998.