Replacing sugar with calorie-free sweeteners like stevia can reduce the calorie intake of meals and the glycemic response (blood sugar levels go lower). Stevia is derived from a plant and thus benefits from an a priori more positive than other sweeteners. A study recently showed that it improves markers of fatty liver disease. However, its effects on appetite are not well known.
A study published in March 2020 in The Journal of Nutrition tried to assess whether the sweet flavor, with or without calorie intake, has an influence on appetite, blood sugar and cognitive responses to food stimulation.
What the study shows
Twenty participants participated in this randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.
Five different drinks, with a base of 300 ml of water were consumed, during five different visits:
- Drink 1: 330 ml of plain water (no taste, zero calories)
- Drink 2: 330 ml of water with 40 g of glucose (sweet taste, 160 calories)
- Drink 3: 330 ml of water with 40 g of sucrose (sweet taste, 160 calories)
- Drink 4: 330 ml of water with maltodextrin (no taste, 160 calories)
- Drink 5: 330 ml of water with 240 ppm of stevia (sweet taste, zero calories)
Participants’ appetite and blood sugar were measured 15, 20 and 60 minutes after taking the drink. After 15 minutes, the participants were subjected to a food stimulus. After 30 minutes, they were offered an unlimited meal.
Results : The carbohydrate response was higher in participants after consuming a caloric drink (containing glucose, sucrose or maltodextrin) than after a calorie-free drink (water or stevia-based drink).
The total energy intake (drink + meal) was significantly lower after taking the stevia drink, both compared to plain water and other caloric drinks, for which there was no notable difference.
If a stevia-based drink could reduce appetite and caloric intake, plain water remains preferable so as not to maintain the sweet taste. But to choose a sugary drink will be better to opt for a stevia drink, to consume in moderation.