History of use and certifications
Monk fruit has been consumed for thousands of years. Its first recorded use was in the 13th century by Chinese monks that harvested it for its medicinal properties. These monks were renowned for their health and longevity that was attributed in part to their consumption of monk fruit.
In the United States monk fruit was classified as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010.
Europe is expected to classify it as a ‘Novel Food Product’ shortly.
Other countries such as Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore have also recognized monk fruit as safe.
There are no long term studies on monk fruit safety in humans. There are three published studies on its safety in animals.
The first study was published in 2006. Six dogs were fed a monk fruit sweetener for either 28 days or 90 days at a dose of 3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. No adverse effects were detected.
The second study was published a year later in 2007 and used rats. The rats were fed up to 6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for 28 days and showed no significant adverse effects. At the highest dose levels the rats experienced body weight reduction.
A third study using rabbits fed monk fruit extract for four weeks showed no harm and in fact improved the rabbit’s blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Lab results filed with the FDA during their certification process indicate that “monk fruit powder extract did not exhibit any cytotoxic or mutagenic potential”. In contrast, stevia shows mutagenic effects in both laboratory and animal testing.
Evidence of health benefits
The best evidence for the safety of monk fruit seems to be both its long term use in China and a number of observed health benefits:
- Sustained weight loss
- Lowered blood sugar
- Reduced cholesterol
- Strongly anti-oxidant
These health benefits are described in greater detail in this post.
There are also many published papers on the health effects of monk fruit. In my research I have found no evidence for any harm or damage caused by monk fruit.
Given the long history of use, the FDA approvals, animal safety studies and the good evidence of positive health affects it seems very likely that monk fruit is a safe to use.
However, it has not had widespread and long term usage such as sugar or fructose and thus you should be careful if consuming large quantities over an extended period of time.
On a personal note, I’ve consumed monk fruit sweeteners for a number of years with no ill effects except needing to purchase smaller clothing!