Lack of potential carcinogenicity for steviol glycosides - Systematic evaluation and integration of mechanistic data into the totality of evidence

Food Chem Toxicol. 2021 Apr:150:112045. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2021.112045. Epub 2021 Feb 12.


Steviol glycosides are present in the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, have a sweet taste, and have been used as a sweetener for centuries. To build on previous authoritative safety assessments of steviol glycosides, a systematic assessment of mechanistic data related to key characteristics of carcinogens (KCCs) was conducted. Over 900 KCC-relevant endpoints from peer-reviewed literature and high-throughput screening data (ToxCast/Tox21) were identified across individual steviol glycosides and derivatives, metabolites, and whole leaf extracts. Most data (both in vivo and in vitro, including human cells), showed inactivity. Studies were weighted according to quality and relevance. Although data were available for eight of the ten KCC, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, inflammation, and cell proliferation/cell death represent the KCCs with the most data. The data for these KCC primarily show beneficial activity (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-proliferative). Following integration across all data, and accounting for study quality and relevance, the totality of the evidence demonstrated an overall lack of genotoxic and carcinogenic activity for steviol glycosides. This is in agreement with previous regulatory decisions, and is consistent with the lack of tumor response in two-year rodent cancer bioassays. The findings support prior conclusions that steviol glycosides are unlikely to be carcinogenic in humans.

Keywords: Carcinogenicity; Key characteristics of carcinogens; Mechanisms; Stevia; Steviol; Steviol glycosides; Sweetener.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenicity Tests*
  • Diterpenes, Kaurane / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Glucosides / toxicity*
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Species Specificity


  • Diterpenes, Kaurane
  • Glucosides
  • stevioside