Stevia and Other Non-Sugar Sweeteners May Not Increase Appetite Levels, Study Finds

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A new study finds non-sugar sweeteners may not impact appetite levels.

  • A recent study indicates that replacing sugar with sweeteners like stevia does not increase appetite levels
  • They also found these non-sugar sweeteners may reduce blood sugar and insulin response after eating
  • Previous concerns about sweeteners increasing appetite were not based on robust evidence.

A new study suggests that replacing sugar with sweeteners does not cause an increase in appetite – contrary to previous studies of lower quality.

The researchers studied 53 healthy adults as the latest study to be published by the SWEET consortium of 29 European research, consumer, and industry partners.

The study was recently published in eBioMedcine.

The SWEET consortium is dedicated to researching and evaluating the long-term advantages and drawbacks associated with transitioning to sweeteners and sweetness enhancers within the realms of public health and safety, obesity, and sustainability.

The researchers looked at how people’s appetites changed after eating foods with sugar versus non-sugar sweeteners.


Non-sugar sweeteners did not impact appetite

This study included 53 healthy adults with a body mass index (BMI) 25–35. A person with a BMI over 25 is considered as having overweight, if it is over 30 they are considered as having obesity.

Participants were ages 18-60 and were randomly assigned to eat one of three types of cookies (called biscuits in the study).

One group consumed a portion of cookies containing sucrose (sugar), while the other two groups consumed cookies with sweeteners (stevia or neotame) every day for two weeks. This was followed by a two-week washout period where participants returned to their regular diets.

Stevia is a naturally occurring sugar substitute made from a stevia plant. Neotame is an artificial sweetener sold under the brand name Newtame that is 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar.

Afterward, the individuals in the study were assigned to another group of cookies, and the cycle repeated for a total of three rounds.

This ensured that each participant tried all three types of cookies but in a different order.

Researchers found no difference in appetite levels between those who consumed sucrose and those who consumed the other sweeteners.

Furthermore, there were no significant differences between satiety-related hormones like ghrelin, GLP-1, or pancreatic polypeptide (PP). These were measured immediately after eating and at various intervals thereafter, on day 1 and day 14 of each cookie consumption period.


Artificial sweeteners reduce blood sugar response

Researchers also observed the impact that sugar vs. sweeteners had on blood sugar and insulin levels after eating.

Overall, participants who consumed sweeteners had a lower insulin response than those who consumed sugar.

However, the blood sugar results differed based on type of sweetener. While both stevia and neotame showed reduced blood sugar response compared to sugar, only stevia showed a significant difference.


Food vs beverages with non-sugar sweetener

This is the first of its kind study to investigate the impact of consuming food containing either sugar or two types of food sweeteners.

Prior research has predominantly focused on beverages.

But these types of studies are limited since unlike beverages eating solid food will have different impacts on digestion, satiety and post-meal responses.

This study was a highly-controlled, gold-standard design that was conducted over a minimum 70-day study period. Very few studies in the past have examined the effects of repeated daily consumption of sweeteners as part of a regular diet.

Finally, this study included volunteers with a BMI of 25–35 and participants of both sexes.

However, the study is relatively small with only 53 individuals studied, so more research will be needed to verify these findings.


So are non-sugar sweeteners healthier than sugar?

It depends on how “healthy” is defined.

In terms of blood sugar and insulin response, there is strong evidence to suggest that choosing non-sugar sweeteners has a favorable effect.

This is found in both food and beverages. A 2023 review and meta-analysis of earlier studies found that non-nutritive sweeteners with single or blends had no immediate metabolic and endocrine effects, similar to water.

“Reducing sugar consumption has become a key public health target in the fight to reduce the rising burden of obesity-related metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes,” the study authors stated.

High blood sugar and insulin responses play a role in developing metabolic disease, though risk assessment is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Regardless, this is a valuable finding to improve the health status of individuals.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new guideline that recommends against the use of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, to control body weight or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases.

Julie Stefanski MEd, RDN, LDN, FAND, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
told Healthline that every person is different and that even the same food product or sugar substitute may have varied impacts on different people.

“The use of a nonnutritive sweetener is only a very small piece of an overall dietary pattern and physical activity routine. Each person choosing to use a food product that contains a nonnutritive sweetener versus traditional sources of sugar needs to assess whether it meets their health goals, whether weight-focused or aiming for better blood glucose control,” Stefanski said.


Bottom line

Researchers randomly assigned participants to eat cookies with sucrose or one of two types of sweeteners every day for two weeks.

The results showed that there was no difference in appetite after sugar or sweetener consumption. However, blood sugar and insulin responses were lower after eating sweeteners.

This suggests that consuming foods with sweeteners instead of sugar may be a tool to help with lowering blood sugar and insulin levels. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and the impact on long-term health.


Written by: Trista Chan, MHSc RD

Fact checked by: Kelsey Costa, MS, RDN

Stevia and Other Non-Sugar Sweeteners May Not Increase Appetite Levels, Study Finds