There has been a lot of debate in recent months as to whether or not Stevia can cause infertility. While Stevia is being touted as the “new” sugar substitute of choice, it is interesting to note that this all-natural sweetener has been used for more than 1,500 years with little (if any) side effects.
So, why all the hype regarding Stevia’s ability to alter a woman’s fertility? The answer to that questions stems from two sources:
- Someone mentioning that women in Paraguay use extracts from the Stevia plant as a contraceptive
- A 32-year-old study which cited that Stevia does indeed offer a contraceptive effect.
That begs the question, if Stevia can indeed prohibit a pregnancy, why hasn’t more research been done to see if it can be used to develop better and safer contraceptives for women? The answer to that question is, “It has!”
Since the first study performed in Uruguay was released in the 1960s, there have been countless other studies completed which contradict its findings. But, first let’s talk about the two main studies used by the FDA to keep Stevia from becoming a common sweetener in American homes.
The Kruc Study
In 1968, Professor Joseph Kruc, a member of Purdue University’s department of biochemistry conducted a study of Stevia at the University of the Republic in Montevideo. Giving a small number of rats very high doses of stevia, it was concluded that the rats given the herbal extract produced less offspring than those who were not.
The problem, even Kruc admits today, is that the rats in the study were given such high doses of Stevia for such a short period of time that, even if it did cause the fertility problems noted, it could have been because of an overdose of the compound. People ingesting Stevia as a sweetener would never be able to consume such a large amount in such a short period of time.
Another concern Kruc admits is that there is no evidence to show that the reaction experienced by the rats would also be experienced by humans.
The Alvarez Study
In 1988, professor Mauro Alvarez of Brazil’s University of Maringa Foundation repeated the study, reporting in a Brazilian pharmaceutical journal that female mice given Stevia experienced a contraceptive effect similar to those reported by Kruc.
The problem with the results, argue critics is that the Alvarez study lacks the information and analysis required by such a research study and cannot be considered valid. According to the Herb Research Foundation the study lacks any credibility at all and should be disregarded.
Even Alvarez himself now claims that further research has led him to believe that Stevia is completely safe for human consumption.
Despite the problems with both studies, the FDA continues to use them as their main source against Stevia.
More Recent Research
Many other researchers have taken on the task of proving that Stevia is a safe natural sweetener, which offers no detrimental health or fertility effects to its users. Dozens of researchers throughout the United States and Europe have studied the herbal extract but, to date, have found no evidence that it causes any of the problems cited in the earlier reports.
In 1999, the primate research center of Chulalonhkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand gave high doses of Stevia to both male and female hamsters to see if their fertility would be affected. Even though 2,500 mg a day was administered (a human dose is about 2 mg), there was no evidence of decreased fertility.
Then, in 2008, researchers reported in the Journal of Endocrinology and Reproduction (vol 12, 2008) that Stevia rebaudiana had absolutely no adverse effects on the fertility of female mice.
The same conclusion has been reached in a number of other studies including those conducted by The Herb Research Foundation, Medicinal Plant Research of the USDA, and The Division of Pathology, National Institutes of Health, Japan.
So, what’s the bottom line?
It seems that these two research studies, dating back almost 40 years, had kept the FDA from approving Stevia as a common sweetener, due to concerns about its effects on both male and female fertility. Dozens of further research studies show no evidence for concern.
Plus, there is some question as to why pharmaceutical companies worldwide have not used Stevia, a completely safe herbal extract, to develop better and more effective contraceptives if indeed it holds these properties. The answer may lie in the fact that it simply doesn’t.
Today, Stevia is sold in almost all grocery stores in both liquid and powdered form, as a sugar substitute.
Our conclusion? At this point, there is no evidence to support the claim that Stevia can – or does – cause a decrease in fertility for either men or women. Stevia may be a very useful herb for women who have PCOS and are seeking an alternative to using sugar in their diets. In short it seems that most modern-day research shows no evidence that Stevia will decrease your fertility or that it can be used for contraceptive purposes. While this all-natural sweetener appears safe for human conception, it is important to note that if you personally are worried that it could have an impact to your fertility, it is best to avoid it. After all, the stress of wondering whether or not it is keeping you from getting pregnant could in itself impede conception.
- Planas, G. M., & Kucacute, J. (1968). Contraceptive Properties of Stevia rebaudiana. Science, 162(3857), 1007-1007. doi:10.1126/science.162.3857.1007 Retrieved from: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/162/3857/1007.1
- Kumar , R., & Oommen, O. V. (n.d.). Stevia rebaudiana Bertani does not produce female reproductive toxic effect : Study in Swiss albino mouse. Retrieved from: http://srbce.org/jer2008/dileepkumar.pdf
- Sahelian, R., & Gates, D. (1999). The stevia cookbook. New York: Avery.