What is stevia? I've heard it's good for weight control.

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Stevia is the common name for extracts from the plant Stevia rebaudiana. In the U.S., a purified component form of the plant — called rebaudioside A (rebiana) — is "generally recognized as safe" by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may be used as an artificial sweetener in foods and beverages.

Refined stevia preparations (Pure Via, Truvia, others) are considered nonnutritive sweeteners — they have virtually no calories — and so may appeal to people trying to lose weight. But there's no evidence that they offer an advantage for weight loss over other nonnutritive sweeteners. In addition, these highly refined stevia extracts may cause mild side effects, such as nausea or a feeling of fullness.

The FDA hasn't approved whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts for use as food additives because of concerns about possible health effects. In particular, the FDA has concerns about the effects of whole-leaf or crude stevia on blood sugar control, the kidneys, and the cardiovascular and reproductive systems.

Remember that while sugar substitutes, such as refined stevia preparations, may help with weight management, they aren't a magic bullet and should be used only in moderation. If you eat too many sugar-free foods, you can still gain weight if these foods have other ingredients that contain calories.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Jan. 06, 2021 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. 3 diet changes women over 50 should make right now
  2. Added sugar
  3. Alcohol use
  4. Alkaline water
  5. Are energy drinks bull?
  6. Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes
  7. Autism spectrum disorder and digestive symptoms
  8. Bad food habits at work? Get back on track in 5 steps
  9. Best oil for cooking?
  10. Dietary guidelines
  11. Breastfeeding nutrition: Tips for moms
  12. Caffeine: How much is too much?
  13. Is caffeine dehydrating?
  14. Calorie calculator
  15. Can whole-grain foods lower blood pressure?
  16. Carbohydrates
  17. Chart of high-fiber foods
  18. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers
  19. Coconut water: Is it super hydrating?
  20. Coffee and health
  21. Diet soda: How much is too much?
  22. Dietary fats
  23. Dietary fiber
  24. Prickly pear cactus
  25. Does soy really affect breast cancer risk?
  26. Don't get tricked by these 3 heart-health myths
  27. Don't go cuckoo for coconut water
  28. Eat more of these key nutrients
  29. Eggs: Bad for cholesterol?
  30. Fiber: Soluble or insoluble?
  31. Fish and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  32. Fit more fiber into your diet
  33. Get to know the new Nutrition Facts label
  34. Grape juice health benefits
  35. Healthy-eating tip: Don't forget fiber
  36. Hidden sources of sodium
  37. High-fructose corn syrup
  38. High-protein diets
  39. How to track saturated fat
  40. Takeout containers
  41. Is there more to hydration than water?
  42. Juicing is no substitute for whole foods
  43. Juicing
  44. Limit bad fats, one step at a time
  45. Make food labels required reading
  46. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  47. Need a snack? Go nuts!
  48. Need more fiber? Take 3 steps
  49. Nutrition rules that will fuel your workout
  50. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  51. Omega-3 in fish
  52. Omega-6 fatty acids
  53. Phenylalanine
  54. Play it safe when taking food to a loved one in the hospital
  55. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  56. Health foods
  57. Portion control
  58. Planning healthy meals
  59. High-fiber diet
  60. Sodium
  61. Step away from the saltshaker
  62. Taurine in energy drinks
  63. Time to cut back on caffeine?
  64. Trans fat
  65. Underweight: Add pounds healthfully
  66. Want a healthier dinnertime? Science says change your eating space
  67. Daily water requirement
  68. What's considered moderate alcohol use?
  69. What's the difference between juicing and blending?
  70. Working out? Remember to drink up
  71. Yerba mate