Why Was Stevia Banned: The Truth You Must Know About Stevia (2023)

Key Takeaways

  • There is no clear evidence indicating that stevia causes cancer when used in moderation
  • The sugar industry also played a role in lobbying against stevia's approval due to concerns about its impact on market share
  • in 2008, the FDA revised its ban to allow stevia leaves and extracts to be imported and used in dietary supplements
  • Stevia is popular because it is sweet, has no calories, and has little to no effect on blood sugar levels
  • Stevia may aid in weight loss by reducing calorie and sugar intake

In a world where sugar’s detrimental effects have become painfully evident, a beacon of hope emerged – stevia, a natural zero-calorie sweetener derived from a humble leaf, serves as a practical alternative to table sugar. 

a stevia plant next to a wooden spoon. Source:


Stevia was previously banned by the FDA due to earlier studies that suggested it may cause cancer. Fortunately, this was amended in 2008, which paved the way for food manufacturers to reintroduce this sweetener. 

Today, stevia is found in all types of foods and beverages. With its rise in popularity and consumer interest, there’s a 58% increase in new products that contain stevia. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the controversial past of stevia and cover the primary health benefits of this wildly popular plant. 

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a natural sweetener found in the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant family, native to North and South America. It’s 200 to 350 times sweeter than traditional table sugar while requiring less water and only 20% of the land to provide the same amount of sweetness as other alternatives. 

infographic with facts about stevia. Source:


So why is it so popular? 

It’s extremely sweet, doesn’t contain any calories, and it has little to no effect on blood sugar levels.  This makes it an attractive substitute for sugar in many foods and beverages like:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Energy drinks
  • Cookies
  • Cakes, 
  • Ice creams
  • Condiments 

Also, stevia comes in a variety of forms to fit your consumption preferences, such as liquid, powder, or granulated form. Liquid and granulated stevia are best for adding sweetness to beverages, while powdered blends well with dry ingredients, which are commonly used in cooking or baking.

Why Was Stevia Banned?

In 1991, Stevia was banned by the FDA due to early studies suggesting it may cause cancer. Essentially, high doses of extract conducted on rats found mutations in their DNA. The sugar industry also had its ulterior motive against stevia since it would impact its market share – they played a role in lobbying against its approval. 

This resulted in regulatory barriers that delayed the acceptance of stevia by the FDA. 

However, subsequent studies refuted those findings, and the FDA revised its previous ban to allow stevia leaves and extracts to be imported and used in dietary supplements. 

"Before approving these sweeteners, FDA reviewed numerous safety
studies that were conducted on each sweetener to identify possible
health harms. The results of these studies showed no evidence that
these sweeteners cause cancer or other harms in people."


Eventually, in 2008, it marked a significant milestone. The FDA granted stevia a “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRA) status, meaning stevia extracts were safe for consumption. Specifically, more recent studies have found that sweetening compounds, also known as steviol glycosides, are safe to consume. 

This opened the door for food and beverage manufacturers to incorporate this natural sweetener into their products. 

Can Stevia Cause Cancer?

There’s no clear evidence that indicates that stevia would cause cancer when used in moderation.

One study found that high doses of stevioside can cause minor changes to genetic material, but the dosage would have to be equal to 3,000 cups of coffee, so the researchers concluded that stevia is safe as long as it’s used in ordinary amounts.

"Stevioside is natural non-caloric sweetner isolated from Stevia rebaudiana BERTONI, which has been used as a non-caloric sugar substitute in Japan. Pezzuto et al. demonstrated that steviol shows a dose-dependent positive response in forward mutation assay using Salmonella typhimurium TM677 in the presence of metabolic activation system (Aroclor induced rat liver S9 [...]"


Also, a review of 372 studies discovered that short-term use of stevia didn’t lead to any increased risk of cancer. Even the American Cancer Society considers stevia safe to consume in our diets. 

Does Stevia or Other Artificial Sweeteners Contribute a Role in Obesity? 

With 39% of adults 18 years and over being overweight, obesity is becoming a growing problem.

graphic representing world obesity for ages 18 plus from world health organization

Source: World Health Organization

Nearly everyone enjoys sugary snacks – and that’s where sugar substitutes come in. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, so very little is needed to sweeten your foods and drinks. It also doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels and lower your risk of receiving tooth decay and cavities compared to regular sugar. 

Can Stevia Help Fight Cancer?

One recent study suggests that stevia combined with a healthy diet can potentially help in preventing cancer and complement ongoing therapy.

"[..] processed meat and poor in fruits and vegetables (2]. Thus, health-promoting habits in everyday life,
including a plant-based diet, could efficiently lower one's risk to develop cancer.

Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni (or simply called Stevia), a perennial shrub from South America and indigenous
to Paraguay, is widely known as a natural sweetener, which is 300 450 times sweeter than sucrose. Several
reports confirm that Stevia also exhibits several biological effects valuable to human health [3,4,5]. Stevia"

- Source: National Center for Biotech Information

According to this review, it found that stevia has anti-cancer properties with the ability to reduce glucose levels in the blood. It also protects against oxidative stress that can cause tumor development and help fight inflammation. 

Additionally, it can slow the growth of cancer cells and speed up their death. 

What’s the Recommended Daily Intake for Stevia?

Stevia is among the most popular sugar replacement sweeteners. 

The FDA recommends about 4 milligrams per kilogram of a person’s body weight. For instance, a person weighing 70 kilograms (154 pounds) shouldn’t consume more than 280 milligrams of stevia per day.

"Acceptable daily intake

The ADI set for steviol glycosides is expressed as steviol equivalents of 4
milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. This equates to
approximately 12 mg of high-purity stevia extracts per kilogram of body
weight per day."
 - Source:


Remember, since it’s much sweeter than sugar, only a small amount is needed in foods and beverages. 

The Most Popular Types of Stevia 

Depending on which stevia you use, it’ll affect the sweetness, taste, and aftertaste. Some are less processed than others as well, affecting their refinement. 

infographic explaining the types of stevia from powder to blends. Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

  • Stevia Powder Extract: These extracts are created by extracting sweet compounds from the plant and purifying them. Stevia powder extracts undergo extensive processing to remove impurities and obtain a higher sweetness level. 
  • Liquid Drops: Liquid stevia drops are a highly concentrated and convenient form of sweetener. They’re made by extracting the compounds and blending them with a liquid. 
  • Whole-Leaf Stevia:  This type of stevia is made by drying and grinding the entire plant leaves. It contains all the natural compounds from the plant and is the least processed option. 
  • Stevia Blends: Stevia blends combine stevia with other artificial sweeteners like erythritol to achieve a similar texture and taste to sugar. As a result, it allows for a familiar sweetness profile that can be used in recipes. 

Generally, whole-leaf stevia is the healthiest option since they contain all the natural compounds within the plant and are the least processed. 

These blends are non-GMO, completely organic, and don’t contain any added flavorings. 

The Possible Health Benefits of Stevia 

As an alternative to table sugar, stevia offers a wide range of potential health benefits. 

It derives the sweet-tasting characteristics from the plant itself, which is beneficial if you prefer consuming naturally-sourced foods. 

Here are the possible health benefits that stevia provides.

graphic showing health benefits of stevia


Manage Diabetes 

Stevia sweeteners don’t contribute carbohydrates or calories to the diet.

They also have been proven to have no insulin or blood glucose response. This allows people with diabetes to incorporate the sweetener into their meal plan without affecting their well-being.

Aid in Weight Loss

There are many causes for obesity and weight gain, such as increased intake of energy-dense foods and inactivity. Fortunately, stevia has practically no calories and no sugar

By replacing your standard highly processed sugar snacks with healthier snacks with stevia, you can drastically reduce your calorie and sugar intake. Consumer sugar-replacement sweeteners help to satisfy cravings for sweetness without the rise and fall of blood sugar levels that can trigger you to eat more. 

Regulate Blood Pressure 

One study found that stevia may help reduce blood pressure by suggesting the plant has cardiotonic actions. This helps to regulate the heartbeat and normalize blood pressure.

"Conclusions: In this 2-year study in Chinese patients with mild hypertension, oral stevioside significantly decreased SBP and DBP compared with placebo. QOL was improved, and no significant adverse effects were noted."

- Source: Science Direct

These compounds can serve as vasodilators, which relax and widen blood vessels, thus regulating a person’s blood pressure. 

Lower Cholesterol Levels 

Studies suggest that stevia can help to lower cholesterol levels, specifically triglyceride and bad LDL cholesterol levels. 

Stevia also contains antioxidants such as phenolic and flavonoid compounds, which are associated with good heart health. Since these antioxidants can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, it plays a critical role in maintaining a good lipid profile. 

Maintain Oral Health 

Artificial sweeteners can decrease bacterial formation in the mouth, which is why some toothpaste and mouthwashes contain stevia. 

Unlike sugar, stevia doesn’t contribute to tooth decay. It won’t ferment in the mouth, which reduces the odds of acid production and maintains a neutral pH environment. This means stevia is better for dental health than table sugar. 

Why Stevia is Better Than Other Low-Calorie Sweeteners

When it comes to low-calorie sweeteners, you’ve got plenty of options. There’s the pink one, the blue one, the yellow one, or, best of all, the green one (stevia).

several types of sweeteners laid out on a table including stevia, splenda, sweet'n low


For instance, when comparing Stevia to Erythritol, Stevia is a more versatile and easy-to-use option. Erythritol doesn’t dissolve easily and crystallizes, which means it’s not a good fit for every dish. 

The most popular sweetener is Splenda. While both are good options, stevia is derived from the leaves of a Stevia plant, meaning it’s minimally processed. 

Comparatively, Splenda (sucralose) is chemically synthesized, offering highly intense sweetness. Due to its natural origin, stevia tends to have more potential health benefits, such as its antioxidant compounds. 

The Bottom Line 

There’s a good chance you’ll find packets of stevia lying around on store shelves and restaurant tables. Stevia is also used in many products you eat. If you’re eating food products marked as low in calories, always check the ingredients list to see which type of sweetener was used. 

Currently, there’s no substantial evidence linking stevia to cancer, and generally safe to consume in moderate amounts. That said, it should be consumed cautiously, especially if you take prescription medications, are pregnant, or have a preexisting health condition. If you’re concerned, consult your doctor to see whether stevia can be included in your diet. 

Cutting out sugar isn’t easy, especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth… 

LivingRatio offers organic certified stevia-based chocolate, so you can indulge in sweets without compromising your well-being.
Get stevia-based products now and enjoy sweets without worrying about weight gain.


  • Thanks for the article…. and Of course! The US would ban anything that has actual health benefits. FDA is so corrupt. I do my own research and this was help very helpful .

    Lisa Banny
  • I’ve been using Stevia well over 12 years. I think people get confused when using it, and if using pure liquid extract, even when instructed to use 1 to 2 drops in a cup of beverage, (Stevia’s sweetness is so much more powerful than artificial sweeteners or sugar, many more times powerful!). Even when cautioned and instructed to only use 1-2 drops for a cup of coffee or tea, I’ve seen people squeeze a stream of liquid Stevia extract into a cup and then complain the taste is not good!! It must be used appropriately to benefit from this NATURAL SWEETENER, WITHOUT THE NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS OF SUGAR. It seems people also confuse this fact, and the brains turn to using Stevia vs. sugar for weight loss! That’s not the first goal, thw first goal is to avoid the negative toxic side effects of sugar, and yes, weight loss is one, but avoiding the chemical side effects of sugar is the most important. We use edible substances to satisfy sweet cravings, and Stevia is a safe, natural plant product at least 10X more powerful as a sweetener as UNSAFE SUGAR. USE IT MINDFULLY AND ENJOY, WHOLE LEAF, CRUMBLED, AND ORGANIC, 100% PURE.

    Ann Godwin
  • So, is the plant still illegal? Are the High Fructose Corn Syrup lobbyists dictating what happens?

    Steven Casey
  • Thank you I love your article.


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