Is Stevia Natural?

Fresh stevia leaves and bowl with sugar

Stevia is a non-caloric sweetener that is relatively new on the international market. It originates in the leaves of a South American plant. Because of that it’s marketed as a “100% natural” alternative to other non-caloric sweeteners.

There’s been some discussion about how natural it really is, as it’s extracted from the leaves using different solvents and goes through further chemical processes before it emerges as a white sweet powder.

Personally I’m no fan of sweeteners, regardless of their origin. They tend to maintain an addiction to sweets. I’ve never seen Stevia as “natural”. It’s purified from leaves and thus it’s no more natural than snorting cocaine (which is also purified from leaves).

121 comments

Top comments

  1. DoragonMama
    I am very disappointed in this article, it isn't based on any real science, it seems to be just a rant about a sweetener for the sake of ranting against sweeteners.

    If stevia is processed with chemicals then you need to rethink your position on chemicals, not all are bad. Like vanilla extracts stevia is extracted with food grade alcohol, are you saying we shouldn't eat extracts?

    And what about organic stevia, how is that bad? Where is the danger in having an organic sweetener that doesn't have any downside.

    I think you are confusing different types of addiction, as others have pointed out. I do not have an addiction to sweets, I have a preference for a bit of sweetener in my coffee and other foods. That doesn't mean I am addicted.

    I do in fact grow stevia on my patio, and I do in fact use it right off the plant in salads and tea. There are instructions on the internet on how to make extracts at home using food grade alcohol OR water as well.

    Again, I am very disappointed in this article, I expect better from you and until now I have always gotten it.

    Reply: #87
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  2. Chris,
    The problem is that using Stevia maintains an addiction to sweets.

    Possibly this abnormally sweet taste and its effect in the brain also messes up body weight regulation / hunger / cravings / insulin in other more discreet ways but that's speculative.

    Reply: #114
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All comments

  1. Lynn

    sucralose, erythriol and yacon syrup are the only one that I recommend. Stevia is greatly overrated as a sweetener. Sucralose is not natural but it is the best sweetener out there. Everything natural is not good and everything syntetic is not bad.

    To me sucralose tastes like chlorine, erythriol is bitter and too cooling, Stevia and xylitol I am allergic to. Never had yacon. And I don't like monk fruit either.

  2. Tracey
    What is so wrong with going sugar and/or artificial sweetener-free? Wow. Being a former (now) sugar-addict, the last thing I need is something that mimics sugar or gives a sweetness to what I'm eating or drinking, even if only miniscule by some people's perceptions. It was all or nothing for me, so it's now nothing and wow! coffee and tea tastes great with just some whipping cream and coconut oil. Can't speak for the rest of you, but you might want to watch Sugar Free (Netflix). It's not about Stevia, but it'll open up your eyes a lot (if you choose to open them).
  3. zed
    If u have low willpower and cant control yourself then dun take stevia.Otherwise,in moderation it be fine
  4. Alex
    I see a lot of blabla that comes from the gut. Where is the science proof? Has anyone tested their blood-sugar level after drinking/eating stevia. This way its simple to say if its bad for you (due insulin building up).
    I have seen a green stevia that was "said" to be "natural". This is the one with the bitter in it.
    There is also a more processed version of this stevia and this is the white one. With this one they have hidden the bitterness with other sweetners. Oh yes...stevia doesnt come alone most if the time.
    But why would you still want the sweet stuff after all this knowledge that its ruining your body.
    Here are some examples of youtube movies if your in doubt about sugar/fructose.
    - fed up
    - fat chance
    - the truth about calories
    - Is a Calorie a Calorie? Processed Food, Experiment Gone Wrong
    - The Truth About Sugar
    - Best Documentary 2015 - The Secrets Of Sugar
    Watch them, get educated and stop eating/drinking junk. I was a sweet tooth too but still learned to drink coffee and tea with just some whipping cream and coconut oil.

    But serious. We need some blood tests otherwise this thread is just filling with people's cutfeelings or cravings :)
    Cheers for the website info

  5. wendy
    I use natural stevia, not the rubbish from supermarket shelves, it is green in color and when used very sparingly it does not have an after taste. I make my own icecream and cheesecakes and its great! You can purchase this type from health food shops or that wonderful place called Ebay!
  6. wendy
    I also use a small sprinkle in my salad dressing (olive oil and white wine vinegar)...Not sure if I should be having the white wine vinegar? Oh and I had blood tests 6 months ago and was told I was glucose intolerant and borderline diabetic, I have gone from that to back in the acceptable range in 6 months so I am pretty happy with that. I am about to get more serious about this lchf eating by cutting out my fruit smoothie for breakfast and removing more carbs from my diet as I still suffer from neuropathy symptoms. If there is anyone who has neuropathy out there and has had success with this lchf life style please let me know.
    Reply: #116
  7. RobinZomb
    Woah. I have just gotten back a test with elevated liver enzymes. And my urine feels weird. Also sometimes I have to pee a bunch of times in a row.

    The only thing different is that I started drinking a lot of stevia in drinks. And also carbonated water.

    I get my liver re-tested in 2 weeks. I am cutting out supplements. And of course stevia and carb. waters. It's almost like my problems started after I kinda went nuts with the carbonated water. La Croix, coconut.

  8. DGB
    Where is the science to back the author's claims of stevia's effects on insulin that prevent weight loss, or especially, the provacative claim that stevia is "addictive?" This article seems to be the antithesis of Dr. Fung's evidence-based approach to diet health. Please, provide the science. An entire year has almost passed. Why has the author not responded to the numerous requests above for scientific evidence to back his claims??
  9. Joan
    Science (1):
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15287390802328630
    --> "Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs."

    Science (2):
    http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/abstract/S1550-4131(16)30296-0

    Just me:
    Artificial sweeteners ((no insulin response, but what happens if the brain notice a (fake) sweetness all the time and gets no fuel?!)) might be less bad than sugar. Anyway, I guess Paracelsus was right: "The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy."

    I will not use any sweeteners until independent (hopefully) research has done numerous long-term evaluations giving the green light.

  10. Je
    I am a new member because I wanted to access more information and was very interested in this topic. I find your approach to Stevia uninformed and unsubstantiated. I used it in my one coffee for the day when I went on LCHF last year and lost 12 kgs. And I am definitely not "addicted" to sugar. I just like my coffee sweetened!
    Reply: #112
  11. Derry
    I saw a long hour program on Stevia and it has been tested and regarded as safe. Diabetes UK recommends it in their recipes. Good enough for me. Everybody is different.
  12. Anand
    I have been following LCHF with great success after getting information and motivation from DietDoctor . I lost weight and feel good. Did not have too much to loose but I have had a lot of health issues that went away over time.. I did a lot of reading on Stevia as I fond even giving up coffee was extreme and I for one rarely cheat and always eat LCHF.. I can say for sure anything other than Stevia causes Insulin spikes as it cheats the brain. Stevia (off course there are some blends and several other brands that are not certified or organic). does not spike my sugar. I have coffee with heavy cream with Stevia and my BS is around 75-90 Mg/dl. I used to take Splenda for few years before I switched to LCHF (I was trying my own diet as I really did not know much about LCHF. I used to eat low carb and low fat as well and higher amounts of protein and was always hungry ) and I still drank Coffee with heavy cream and my BS would be around 140-150 Mg/dl right after I drink coffee and hence I completely gave up coffee. I was getting desperate and used to lift weights and workout 2 hours a day and be sore and had no drop in my A1C which was over 6.8. Once I got my life back with LCHF and started feeling confident I decided there was no point in being extreme. Stevia is fine. I check my A1C and my BS every 90 days. I have the knowledge and I make decisions and I mostly never feel guilty or hungry.
    So far so good. Only bad thing is that I don't seem to loose much weight. I consistently eat under 50 grams of carbs. I am now trying to eat less than 20 Grams and that means I need to give up eating nuts. I eat very little meat and more of eggs. I want to get there gradually. I enjoy reading all that you folks share and lean as I go.
  13. Peter
    I see Stevia as the best of a bad bunch.

    It is probably best to give up all sugars and sweetners but if you do need something then this is the way to go (in my opinion).

    I am gradually weaning myself of sugar and Stevia is helping me do that. It is a means to an end and the success I have had so far gives me confidence that I one day, I will give up all sweetners.

  14. angel
    My experience tells me to stay away from Stevia, the reason is two folds:
    1. It's too concentrated, and very easy to overdose when making deserts. Even a single drop can make deserts unnaturally sweet, which will lead to increased sugar consumption if not curbed immediately.
    2. It promotes hunger. I am fat adopted and can usually go on a full day of strenuous outdoor activities with no hunger (i.e., hiking, biking). However, one day I drank some electrolyte powder with stevia, and was feeling unusually hungry 4 hours into the bike ride. Like Dr Andreas said, it likely effect the brain and messes up insulin regulation.

    Stay away from Stevia!

  15. CocoabSteve
    If you need to have something sweetened, you're addicted! lol
  16. Abi
    Dear Wendy,
    With fasting, your body will experience first autophagy :

    The Sweet Spot for Intermittent Fasting
    Lower insulin means greater fat loss
    Intermittent fasting — the practice of going without food for some (undefined) period of time — has many health benefits. It can help prevent heart disease, speed fat loss, and slow or reverse aging.
    There are a number of physiological mechanisms involved. It reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, leads to increased numbers and quality of mitochondria, and increases autophagy, the cellular self-cleansing process.
    Many of the beneficial effects are entwined with lower levels of insulin.
    The function of insulin is to promote energy storage and the growth of the organism. When insulin is increased, fat is stored in fat cells, and other cells take up glucose from the blood.

  17. briana
    I also use Stevia leaf extract and I am not addicted to sugar. I do not ever crave sweets as I have removed sugar from my lifestyle for 7 months now. I use Stevia whenever I drink tea or coffee, but not every time. If this had addictive properties then I would be unable to go without it everyday, right? I only use Stevia about 3 times a week, if even that. It's also important to note that my use of Stevia does not affect my blood sugar readings. I agree with other posters that this article sounds more like a rant than anything. However, you are entitled to your own opinion, just as everyone else.
  18. Kadi
    Briana - you are proving the author's point. Your post sounds a lot like something an addict would say.
    "I only drink 3 times a week and I don't really need to, I just like to." You probably wouldn't feel defensive of Stevia if you weren't somewhat dependent on it.
  19. Leandro
    Hi fellows, any advise about Swerve (1tsp total fat 0, sodium 0, carbs 4g, total sugars 0, Erythritol 4g, protein 0).
    Thank you.
  20. 3 comments removed
  21. Helena
    This point is a bit silly to argue. The thing is you're all right to a point. Yes, by using stevia there has to be some pleasure in it. Yes, some people want it like I want bacon. I am not addicted to bacon, I just like it a hell of a lot. I won't stop eating bacon or salmon because tomorrow the high carb police tell me it is terrible. I could but I don't have to because it has never had any negative effects on my body. On the contrary. There are people that just like stevia so why go without it if they don't notice any weight gain or dependency or negative feelings in their bodies. Now, are there people that may be addicted to stevia and crave more sweets because they've had too much stevia? Absolutely. I am guessing the good doctor is saying that he simply doesn't need sweeteners and thinks they may be a risk for some people. The comparison to cocaine was a bit of a stretch but I think he was being a bit 'flippant' and some people react well to these kinds of articles while others won't. He's just trying to make a point. I think we can get addicted to exercise, but I don't feel like an addict and won't stop exercising. Nor do I think exercise is bad but it can be. Stevia isn't bad but it can be. There may even be some good properties to stevia. So if we're going to make the cocaine comparison we can make it to just about anything. I doubt the doctor would argue that every single person that uses stevia once in a while is an addict that will gain all their weight back because we all know that isn't the case. He was simply stating that he thinks sweetener free is the best option. I believe above all else, we need to follow what we feel is making us healthy and content and we aren't cardboard cut-outs ... that will be different for each of us. We have an innate ability to know what our bodies need if we pay attention. Cheers.
  22. Dave
    Helena you are so sensible, what are you doing in a comments section. :) :)
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