When I learned that artificial sweeteners are contributing to blood sugar problems, I decided that I needed to review the research on stevia to see how it compared. It turns out the news is good on stevia.
A recent and very thorough study on artificial sweeteners demonstrated that they are contributing to higher blood sugar levels after meals. The study showed that people consuming artificial sweeteners have different bacteria living in their gut. Then, healthy people who didn’t use artificial sweeteners were given saccharin for 6 days. Four out of the seven developed high blood sugar. The researchers used mice to determine that changes in gut bacteria were the cause. These new bacteria contributed to the absorption of some of the carbohydrates we don’t normally absorb. These new bacteria seem to make it as if we had eaten a higher carbohydrate meal. In studies on rats, saccharin, sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet) were all shown to have equal negative effects on gut bacteria and blood sugar. The researchers are suggesting that these artificial sweeteners are contributing to both diabetes and obesity.
So this left me with the question of whether stevia might do the same thing. Stevia is a plant from South America that is now popular as a natural non-caloric sugar alternative. But unlike the artificial sweeteners, stevia holds promise of helping people with blood sugar problems. Participants eating stevia-sweetened foods before a meal showed lower blood sugar and insulin levels after the meal compared to participants given aspartame or sugar-sweetened foods. The study also showed that eating stevia before a meal didn’t lead to increased calorie consumption during the meal. Many other studies are pointing to stevia as an agent that may help with insulin resistance, the issue responsible for most cases of diabetes.
Stevia is very sweet and can have an aftertaste somewhat similar to artificial sweeteners. I find it helpful to use a little bit less than I think I need so that my food is not overly sweet. This cuts down on the aftertaste too. I am also a big fan of the flavored stevia liquids, such as the cinnamon flavored on I like to put in my tea. To read more about stevia and xylitol, the other sugar alternative I use sometimes, here is a great article from LifeExtension.
9 thoughts on “Stevia Beats Artificial Sweeteners For Blood Sugar”
i wonder how agave nectar stacks up.
Hi Annette, I am not a huge fan of agave because it is high in fructose.
I researched stevia and Xylitol too, and while stevia does indeed seem like a safe bet (if you don’t mind the taste), I discovered that there are some things that most people are not aware of when it comes to Xylitol. It was originally made from the bark of trees during WW2, when there were blockades that prevented sugar from being imported. It’s still possible to get Xylitol made from bark (see: http://www.globalsweet.com/p/GRX2.html ) but most of it now is being made from corn, and some of that corn, of course, is GMO. NOW brand claims that its organic Xylitol is made from non-GMO corn that is grown in China. ( It seems likely that corn grown in the US, even if it’s labelled non-GMO, may still be GMO, because GMOs are so invasive.) I bought some of the Smart Sweet and I like the taste, but it gives me gas and diarrhea. So for the most part now, when I use a sweetener, I’m using raw honey, and afterwards I take about a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and keep it in my mouth for a few minutes to help re-alkalize. (Since I had most of my teeth pulled, it seems that Candida grows much more quickly in my mouth.)
I think I am going to have to learn to like the taste of Stevia!
Thanks, Natalie. Great points about Xylitol. I didn’t really focus on it, but if I had, I would have mentioned that it causes gas and digestive issues in many people. More so if they are fructose sensitive.
I need to go off sugar in order to follow the anti-candida diet but feel I need to add an artificial sweetener in order to make it sustainable. also my son has type 1 diabetes so I would like to know all the pros and cons of each sweetener for his health. There is lots of research for everything except Stevia so I was hoping you could provide some clarity on the following claims out there:
Do you have any thoughts on the studies done on male rats which show a negative effect on fertility?
Also, some people are claiming (unable to find research) that stevia has a hormonal chemical structure. Any thoughts (possible research) on that? Lastly, any thoughts (research) on stevia being converted into a mutagenic compound (cancer-causing) in the lab?
I agree the studies on stevia are limited. Some show diabetes preventing properties, but many stevia extracts are removing those compounds to make it taste better. I haven’t seen any meaningful research on negative claims so I am not worried about it contributing to fertility issues or cancer. But I still use a minimum amount of it. I put some in my tea and use protein powders that are stevia sweetened. I also occasionally use a little xylitol. So I recommend living mostly without sweets of any kind and using small amounts of stevia at times. The healthiest choice might be using stevia leaves or stevia powder from the whole leaves but harder to work with and more aftertaste.