What Is Pure Via? Is It Safe to Use?

Pure Via stevia sweetener
Pure Via stevia sweetener. Google Images/tmcnet.com

Pure Via is the name of a particular brand of sweetener derived from the stevia plant. It's advertised as a substitute for sugar, and you can purchase it in sugar-sized packets, liquid drops, and blends that also include real raw cane sugar.

Stevia is a leafy plant (it looks a little like mint) whose leaves have been used to sweeten drinks in South America for centuries. The leaves have up to 150 times the sweetness of sugar, so you can see the appeal.

Adding to that appeal: Refined stevia products, such as Pure Via, contain no calories.

Pure Via (along with other stevia-based products) advertises itself as "all natural." But "all natural" doesn't always mean "all safe" — there are plenty of "natural" things (like sharks and arsenic) that aren't particularly safe.

Is Pure Via Safe?

So are Pure Via and other stevia products safe?

Stevia had once been banned in the U.S. because of concerns around possible cancer-causing components in the stevia plant as it broke down in the human body. But in 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed the sale of stevia, as long as the sweetener product was produced through a specific, highly purified process that only used specific parts of the stevia plant.

Pure Via is manufactured through that FDA-allowed process, and so it's considered safe to consume. It competes with various other purified stevia products on the market, and in fact has been used in SoBe Lifewater, a zero-calorie water product produced by Pepsi Co.

The Pure Via packets and liquid drops contain zero calories, while the cane sugar blends taste and behave more like sugar, but contain about half the calories as regular white sugar.

What Else Should I Know About Pure Via?

Stevia products like Pure Via rely on the sweetness of stevia components called steviol glycosides, particularly one steviol glycoside called Rebaudioside A.

Steviol glycosides appear to have no effect on either blood sugar levels or on blood pressure, making them safe for people with diabetes to consume. Various scientists have evaluated the safety of steviol glycosides, and have concluded that they're safe for both adults and children.

In fact, clinicians have never reported an allergic reaction to stevia. Still, just because a substance appears safe in the short term doesn't mean adverse reactions might not reveal themselves in the long term.

For example, one study of steviol glycosides fed to rats in huge amounts (far more than you'd use in your coffee) showed that the substance reduced sperm counts and caused other changes in their reproductive systems, which could impact their fertility. Also, it's possible in the lab to convert steviol glycosides into a compound that promotes cancer.

Nonetheless, the version of stevia used by Pure Via in its products is considered to be safe.

Read more on Stevia

Sources:

Food and Drug Administration fact sheet.

"Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States." Accessed Nov. 1, 2015.

Pure Via manufacturers' website. Accessed Nov. 1, 2015.

Tandel KR. Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmotherapeutics. 2011 Oct-Dec; 2(4): 236–243.

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