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Weight Loss » Food For Weight Loss » Stevia And Belly Fat: Why All Sweeteners Can Not Be Trusted

Stevia And Belly Fat: Why All Sweeteners Can Not Be Trusted

Should you rely on Stevia?
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Stevia And Belly Fat

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 40% of the world’s population is overweight (13). Unfortunately, one of the main culprits responsible for this is sugar. The result of overeating in the body is obesity, which consequently increases the risk of getting heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, and cancer among other health diseases. Although artificial sweeteners have been considered as potential alternatives to sugar, some people are concerned about whether there is a correlation between stevia and belly fat.

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While stevia has been considered as a good artificial sweetener because it is low energy content, it also has some health benefits. In the United States of America, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes this artificial sweetener as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Part of the reasons why the FDA has not approved or classified this sweetener for use as a food additive is that it may have some adverse effects on health.

Research carried out in 2018

Research carried out in 2018 found out that sweeteners with meager calories also have a chance of increasing fat in the human body (3). Based on the research presented during the 100th meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago, it was noted that artificial sweeteners affect the cells responsible for fat storage in the body.

According to the researchers, artificial sweeteners in drinks and foods can increase GLUT4 that these cells contain, thereby encouraging fat accumulation, which can also increase one’s risk of obesity. However, they were also quick to note that when these sweeteners are consumed in low quantity, they can improve metabolic conditions, support weight loss, and protect against injury when infected. It is when they are consumed in large quantities that they tend to contribute to the obesity pandemic.

stevia and belly fat
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What is stevia?

Stevia is the trade name given to extracts from the plants known as stevia rebaudiana. Among the food ingredients it seems to be most valued for the fact that it has little or no calories compared to other artificial sweeteners. Many food manufacturers are using it because it contains the compound steviol glycoside, making it a sweetener that is almost calorie-free. Stevia is considered to be sweeter than sugar by 200 times.

Stevia has eight glycosides as identified from research, which are sweet components that have been purified from the leaves of stevia. They are dulcoside A, stevioside, steviolbioside, and rebaudioside A, B, C, D, E, and F (4). A 2017 article published on this natural sweetening agent found out that stevia has the potential of treating endocrine diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, and obesity (14). Some other researches also assert that people suffering from type 2 diabetes can also benefit health-wise from the natural sweetener.

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stevia and abdominal fat
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Health benefits of stevia

It should be noted that stevia is not calorie-free. Still, the fact that it has a significantly low number of calories compared to sucrose is why it is classified as devoid of calories. Let’s take a quick look at some of the health benefits derived from this natural sweetening agent.

Suitable for people suffering from diabetes

Part of the reasons why people with diabetes are permitted to use this sweetener is that stevia does not increase carbohydrates or calories to any diet, according to research. It also does not affect insulin or blood glucose response (6). It was also discovered that people with type 2 diabetes enjoyed a significant reduction in blood glucagon, a hormone responsible for regulating glucose levels in the blood, and glucose. After the steviol glycosides contained in stevia passed the purity criteria of the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), it was concluded that anyone with diabetes could safely consume it (18).

is stevia bad for you
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Potential reduction in blood pressure

It is interesting to note that from research carried out on the efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension, stevia has the potential to reduce blood pressure in the body (7). It is said to have cardiotonic actions, which can bring the blood pressure to a reasonable level and regulate how the heart beats.

Helpful in weight control

Many things contribute to obesity and being overweight, like a high consumption of energy-dense foods rich in fat and added sugar. Stevia, which does not have sugar and contains very few calories, helps in reducing the amount of energy consumed without sacrificing sweetness.

Lack of allergic reactions

Based on a review carried out by the European Food Safety Committee in 2010 on different food additives, it was found out that steviol glycosides are not likely to cause any allergic reactions whenever they are consumed in foods (9).

stevia side effects
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Stevia side effects

Considering the health benefits that stevia offers, it is not out of place to ask if stevia is bad for you or not. While no research has explicitly stated that stevia is bad for health, there are some side effects that could potentially crop up in the process of using this natural sweetener. Some of which are discussed below (5):

Endocrine disruption

Steviol glycosides have the possibility of interfering with hormones that the endocrine system controls. A study carried out in 2016 on the possible danger of steviol glycosides found out that human sperm cells exposed to stevia had a higher amount of progesterone (12).

Effect on blood pressure

Usually, whatever lowers blood pressure can cause complications in health, especially when used for a long time. Known for its vasodilating function, stevia’s effect on the blood vessels causes them to become wider while reducing the total blood pressure. This is why people who have chronic blood pressure conditions are usually encouraged to consult with their dietitian or doctor before choosing to use stevia regularly.

blood sugar
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Reduction of blood sugar

It has been established that stevia can potentially control blood sugar levels in people suffering from diabetes. So, consuming it over a long period of time is likely to cause low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia.

Adverse effect on the kidney

Stevia can increase the rate at which water and electrolytes are expelled from the body through urine. Since the kidney is responsible for the creation and filtration of urine, some researchers are of the opinion that consuming stevia over the long term may damage the organ. However, a study carried out in 2013 found out that cyst growth in kidney cells was reduced after a period of stevia use (15).

Gastrointestinal symptoms

There are certain products made with stevia, which also have sugar alcohol added to them. These products are likely to cause specific irritating symptoms in individuals who are sensitive to sugar alcohol. Although it is not common to have hypersensitivity to a sugar alcohol, some of the symptoms can include bloating, cramping, nausea, indigestion, and vomiting.

Other factors that are likely to cause a spike in the risks related to the use of stevia are medications that regulate hormones, medications on cancer conditions and those that have to do with the liver, kidney, blood pressure, and the heart.

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does stevia cause belly fat
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Belly fat and what causes it

In simple terms, belly fat has to do with the fat that is in and around the abdomen. There are two known types of belly fat, which are visceral and subcutaneous fats. While visceral fat is found around a person’s organs, subcutaneous fat is the one that sits under a person’s skin. Belly fat is considered to be dangerous because of certain health risks that it promotes. Some of these include heart attack, high blood pressure, heart disease, colon, cancer, asthma, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Different things have been considered to be the causes of belly fat. Some of them are discussed below (10):

High intake of alcohol

People who consume too much alcohol have been found to develop various health problems like liver inflammation. A study conducted in 2015 on the relationship between alcohol consumption and obesity reported that male counterparts are liable to gain weight around their bellies when they drink lots of alcohol (1).

poor diet
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Poor diet

Diets that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein may affect a person’s weight. Apart from that, food that contains so much sugar, like candy and cakes, and drinks like fruit juice and soda, can reduce a person’s ability to burn fat and slow metabolism. With this, a person can gain more weight.

Lack of adequate rest

A study conducted on the effect of sleep duration in regulating energy balance in the body revealed that when there is a short duration of sleep a person is likely to gain more weight, which then leads to an increase in the total fat in the belly (17). So, abdominal fat can develop from short sleep durations and the reduced quality of sleep time.

stress
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Stress

There is a steroid hormone in the body known as cortisol. It primarily aids the control of stress in the body. A person facing high pressure or dangerous situations is likely to have their body release cortisol, and this may play a significant role in their metabolism. When a person feels stressed and then goes on to consume food for comfort, what the presence of cortisol does is cause the retention of excess calories around the belly and other parts of the body, thereby leading to belly fat.

Insufficient or inadequate exercise

A person who consumes more calories yet burns less of them will definitely increase in weight. A continued state of inactivity in a person makes burning excess fats challenging, especially those located around the abdomen.

stevia sugar and belly fat
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Does stevia cause belly fat?

Stevia has low energy and carbohydrate contents, two items likely to increase one’s risk of belly fat. It may help in losing weight when it is used to replace sugar intake of about 45 calories for each tablespoon, according to the US Department of Agriculture (16). We cannot overlook the fact that the sweetener is likely to cause an insulin response because of its sweet taste, even though it does not increase the sugar levels of blood.

Of all the factors contributing to belly fat, stevia is yet to be considered as one of them. However, we can consider research that was conducted in 2008 to evaluate supplementary stevia leaves and stevioside in broiler diets. According to the study, even though dietary stevia lowered blood levels of glucose, triiodothyronine, and triglycerides, it did not impact on non-esterified fatty acids. Also, the result showed that stevia leaves and a stevioside diet increased abdominal fat content significantly (8). Further research still needs to be carried out on the relationship between stevia and abdominal fat to ascertain the correlation between the two accurately.

ginger tea with stevia
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Can you add stevia to ginger tea and still burn belly fat?

Ginger has impressive compounds known for stimulating different biological activities in a person’s body when it is consumed. These compounds are known as shogaols and gingerols. A study carried out in 2015 on the effectiveness of antioxidant supplements in diabetes and obesity found that obesity can spike the levels of oxidative inflammation and stress. The good part of ginger’s antioxidant properties is that they help control these free radicals and fight against inflammation in the body (11).

Although these properties do not directly address excess fats, they can prevent cardiovascular damage and some other side effects of being overweight along with efforts to control body weight. Gingerols have what is known as anti-obesity effects that can aid in the fast digestion of food and the stimulation of the body to make digested food move quickly through the colon. This antioxidant property, from research, is also capable of normalizing blood sugar level, which is crucial in weight loss (2).

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Stevia and risk of chronic diseases

Excess sugar consumption, as already established, can increase the total fat in the body and, at the same time, increase a person’s risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Considering the fact that stevia has no calories or very little (if there is any), adding it as an alternative sweetener when drinking ginger tea should not take away from a person’s belly fat burning goal.

In summary, stevia is a low-calorie sweetener that has health benefits, but not without some possible side effects. Because of its low-calorie feature, it does not increase fat in the body. Belly fat, on the other hand, is a result of several factors, including stress, poor eating habit, and lack of regular exercise. Currently, no research has identified a direct association between stevia and belly fat, which means that the consumption of the sweetener is not likely to affect most people who are pursuing a belly fat goal.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1.  Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update (2015, link.springer.com)
  2. Anti-obesity Action of Gingerol: Effect on Lipid Profile, Insulin, Leptin, Amylase and Lipase in Male Obese Rats Induced by a High-Fat Diet (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Consuming low-calorie sweeteners may predispose overweight individuals to diabetes (2018, eurekalert.org)
  4. Determination of eight artificial sweeteners and common Stevia rebaudiana glycosides in non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages by reversed-phase liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Does stevia have any side effects? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
  6. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels (2010, sciencedirect.com)
  7. Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: A two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study (2013, sciencedirect.com)
  8. Evaluation of Supplementary Stevia (Stevia Rebaudiana, Bertoni) Leaves and Stevioside in Broiler Diets: Effects on Feed Intake, Nutrient Metabolism, Blood Parameters and Growth Performance (2008, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Food additives (2019, food.gov.uk)
  10. How do you lose belly fat? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
  11. How Effective Are Antioxidant Supplements in Obesity and Diabetes? (2015,ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. In vitro bioassay investigations of the endocrine disrupting potential of steviol glycosides and their metabolite steviol, components of the natural sweetener Stevia (2016, sciencedirect.com)
  13. Overweight and obesity (n.d.,who.int)
  14. Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni: A Natural Alternative for Treating Diseases Associated with Metabolic Syndrome (2017, liebertpub.com)
  15. Steviol Reduces MDCK Cyst Formation and Growth by Inhibiting CFTR Channel Activity and Promoting Proteasome-Mediated CFTR Degradation (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  16. Sugars, granulated (2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
  17. The Role of Sleep Duration in the Regulation of Energy Balance: Effects on Energy Intakes and Expenditure (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  18. What is stevia? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
Olivia Johnson

Olivia Johnson

Olivia is a passionate writer and a whip-smart proofreader who takes pride in her ability to turn hard-to-digest information into an enjoyable read. She is a book worm, a life of the party, a meditation and fitness enthusiast, and a champion for healthy living all in one. Dissecting dietary fads, debunking long-established weight loss myths and delivering science-backed quality content is her top priority. When working on a piece, Olivia tunes into her own experience of trial-and-error weight loss which helps her cut through the clutter when doing extensive research. Her unbridled enthusiasm spills over into her work and motivates readers to chase after their full potential.

Soraya Ziou

Soraya Ziou

Hi everyone! I am a Canadian Registered Dietitian (RD) who graduated from the University of Ottawa, Canada. I worked at the Montreal Pediatric University Hospital and the Ottawa Heart Institute before joining the International Clinic of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. With a strong interest in community nutrition, I worked in Haiti and in Syrian refugee camps affected by the scourge of malnutrition. I am passionate about food and its science!

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