Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs), like Splenda, aspartame, and stevia, are commonly used to facilitate weight management. While using NNSs to replace sugar directly reduces caloric intake, their effects on other physiological and psychological outcomes are still unclear. This study sought to determine how stevia influences food intake, appetite, blood glucose, and attentional bias to food cues in comparison to caloric sweeteners.
20 healthy adults were randomly given 5 treatments on 5 different days. The treatments included 330mL of water plus nothing (control), 40g glucose, 40g sucrose, 40g maltodextrin, and 240ppm stevia. 30 minutes after the assigned beverage was consumed, participants were given lunch and ate until satiety.
The energy consumed at lunch was significantly higher in the water condition than all other beverages, but the energy intake in the non-nutritive (stevia) condition did not differ from the calorically-sweetened beverages. In fact, when the calories from the calorically-sweetened beverages were accounted for in total energy intake, the stevia condition actually led to about ~100 fewer calories consumed than all other beverages.
All sweet beverages had similar effects on hunger, fullness, desire to eat, and prospective consumption; subjects were less hungry, fuller, and their desire to eat was lower compared to the water condition. Blood glucose (BG) concentrations were elevated in the caloric-beverage conditions when compared to water and stevia, which didn’t have a significant impact on blood glucose. There were no observed differences in attentional bias to food cues across treatments.
The bottom line: These results suggest that consuming stevia can acutely affect appetite and decrease total energy intake without inducing a spike in blood sugar. Non-nutritive sweeteners can be great substitutes for refined sugars and may assist in weight management. Of course, as with anything else, moderation is always advised.