Stevia, Artificial Sweeteners Do Not Increase Appetite: Study

Stevia, Artificial Sweeteners Do Not Increase Appetite: Study

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Amie Dahnke

Amie Dahnke

4/11/2024

Updated: 4/15/2024

Fans of stevia and other sugar alternatives get a sprinkle of sweet news. Replacing sugar with sweeteners like stevia does not increase a person’s appetite and can even help reduce blood sugar levels, according to new randomized controlled trial results.
The study, published by the SWEET consortium in The Lancet’s eBioMedicine, was led by the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and the Rhône-Alpes Research Center for Human Nutrition in France. The SWEET consortium comprises 29 Europe-based research, consumer, and industry partners collaborating to research whether switching from sugar to other sweeteners would benefit the public.
The first-of-its-kind study included 53 adult men and women between the ages of 18 and 60 who were considered overweight or obese. It is considered first-of-its-kind because it focused on sugary foods rather than beverages. Between 2021 and 2022, participants consumed cookies that contained either sugar, stevia, or an artificial sweetener called Neotame over three two-week periods. Neotame (sold as Newtame) is an artificial sweetener that is up to 13,000 times sweeter than regular sugar. Participants tried each type of cookie but in a different order. Their glucose levels, insulin, and appetite-related hormones were recorded on the first and last day of each two-week period.
The researchers found no difference in appetite levels between participants who ate cookies with sugar and those who ate cookies with stevia or artificial sweetener. Additionally, they found no difference between appetite-related hormones like ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), or pancreatic polypeptide.
However, participants who ate cookies made with stevia or artificial sweetener had lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who ate cookies made with sugar. Participants who ate cookies made with stevia showed the most statistically significant difference in blood sugar.

Sugar and Obesity

While dietary fat was once suspected to cause weight gain and obesity, the finger has shifted to point to sugar in recent decades. Being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes. Diabetics have too much glucose, or blood sugar, in the bloodstream, so they must watch how much sugar they consume. Additionally, obesity can worsen diabetes.
The unofficial term “diabesity” refers to someone who is both obese and has diabetes. Explains Dr. Jay Waddadar from the Cleveland Clinic: “Diabesity is a disease with enormous potential to cause ill effects on the body in the long run. ... Diabesity is a silent disease that damages your body if it’s not controlled, even while you feel fine.”
In the end, sugar is a culprit for both obesity and diabetes, two conditions that feed off of one another.

A Safe Alternative to Sugar? Questions Remain

To reduce the burden of metabolic-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, a safe alternative to sugar becomes more necessary to reduce sugar intake, lead author Catherine Gibbons, associate professor at the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology, said in a press release. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to get behind stevia or artificial sweeteners for weight control or reducing the risk of metabolic disorders.
“The rationale behind the recommendation appears to be founded on the lack of robust evidence,” the researchers wrote in the study.
The new research contradicts previous studies from 2023 linking artificial sweeteners to health concerns like impaired glycemic response, toxicological damage to DNA, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The authors suggest that this previous research was of lower quality and that the WHO’s stance was perhaps premature. However, although the SWEET consortium’s study was double-blinded, randomized, and highly controlled, with only 53 subjects, it was also small.
Nonetheless, the study offers evidence that nonsugar sweeteners could be a valuable tool in reducing the amount of sugar consumed globally. As more people look for ways to manage their weight and blood sugar levels, sweeteners like stevia and artificial sweeteners could help satisfy a sweet tooth without increasing appetite.
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Amie Dahnke

Amie Dahnke

Author

Amie Dahnke is a freelance writer and editor residing in California. She has covered community journalism and health care news for nearly a decade, winning a California Newspaper Publishers Award for her work.

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