I mostly do not consume sugars/fruits now, but when I want something sweet I still use a bit of stevia. But, there hasn't been much research on the long-term effects of stevia, and also any 'sweet' tastes have been shown to induce some insulin responses, which could probably affect weight loss. As an example, I could probably ween myself off stevia if instead of a lower calorie coconut smoothie with stevia, I had a higher-calorie portion of macadamia nuts--which would be a better option for weight loss? Has anyone noticed a change in weight or health by decreasing the amount you use? Thanks!
EDIT: a lot of people have been recommending raw stevia (I've been using mainly stevia glycerite or sweetleaf droppers). Where do you get your raw stevia?
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I use stevia and have noticed no side effects. It is raw stevia with no additives
I tend to think that tales of weight gain from artificial sweeteners are psychosomatic. In other words: you could be imagining things. I've used probably every brand of sugar substitutes out there: aspartame, stevia, splenda (sucralose), sweet'n' low, truvia, equal, lo han, xylitol, erythritol, etc.
Many different versions of them: as liquid or in in powder from, including bulking agents like sugar or maltodextrin.
Sum total of my experience: some of them will raise your BG somewhat (but not greatly) and yes, overreliance on powder sugar substitutes can somewhat increase your BMI, because of the maltodextrin. However, most natural sugar subs with zero glycemic loads (stevia, liquid splenda, etc.) will not have that effect. In fact, stevia is slightly hypogylcemic. You might think you're gaining weight. But that's because of something else in your diet and metabolism, not because you haven't eliminated sugar substitutes.
Those with normal metabolism do not gain weight using Splenda or Stevia. The same is largely true with Aspartame, used in diet sodas and sugar-free jellos.
The Pavlovian explanation that eating something sweet (whether or not it's actually glycemic) will secrete insulin, and result in weight gain doesn't hold true for most people. At least for those whose metabolism isn't deranged. Dr. Bernstein tells stories of his patients relying on sugar substitutes with no weight problems -- and these are people with prior weight problems. Frank Hu also presented a metastudy which exonerated diet sodas from causing obesity.
There is no proof of psychological insulin release with any sugar alternatives. We don't want chemical alternatives obviously but raw stevia, which for me is hard to find and expensive where I live is perfectly "paleo'. The Japanese have been using it without side effects for a couple hundred years. There isn't much western research on it but its safe. Enjoy in moderation.
The only thing I'd wonder about is the psychological aspect of insulin release. If the brain senses that any caloric intake is about to enter the body, it secretes a bit of insulin as a primer to using the expected glucose spike. But with stevia, there's no glucose entering the bloodstream, and thus similar to other sweeteners, there's a secretion of insulin with no fuel to use. This confuses things. Some research shows just looking at food cause the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin in to the blood stream. How much of an issue is this? Nobody knows. There really needs to be more research on the subject.
But I do, on occasion, use stevia in my coffee, however I put a very small amount of it in.
I have also used raw stevia and have no adverse side affects. I only use it in my green tea drinks and have found no cravings stemming from the use.
My concern is that stevia feeds my old sugar addiction via the dopamine receptors in the brain. I crave the sweet taste all day long and find I am continuously sipping on stevia sweetened liquids. If I do not have any access to stevia, I really feel the need for something else sweet. Out of desperation I have occasionally resorted to sugar. I think that the addiction is from the tongue to the brain and it is for all sweet tastes --even stevia. What do you think? Am I addicted to stevia or just to all sweet tastes?
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An insulin response is not a bad thing. Chronically high insulin is a bad thing.
For weight loss, you shouldn't worry so much about whether you're having one tree-nut product or another and with a minimal amount of stevia. You should worry if you're having one smoothie after another after another without giving your body a chance to process the first one. In other words, don't snack on macadamia nuts or smoothies.
Also, I have a theory that the alleged extra insulin released from the "sweet taste" (if it actually does occur) could possibly be helpful in clearing the blood faster.
Read: Mastering Leptin.
I don't think raw powdered stevia presents any hidden dangers in the form of insulin spikes.. I use it and can't tolerate any real sugar, or even starches
I've had an increase in weight from use the two time periods I've used it, and lost weight when I cut it.
Both times I added stevia to my diet, I found that re-adjusting my taste buds to sweet things made it FAR EASIER for me to stray into doughnut and cake territory. It completely rekindled my desire for sweets, which I had lost long ago by just not eating anything sweet aside from fruit.
I don't know if it directly impacts how my body stores calories, but I know for certain that it weakens my resolve...when I'm somewhere that I can't get a stevia-sweetened item and I'm craving sweet, I'm more likely to grab some M&M's or cookies "just this once." Of course it's never just this once! If I had iron will it might not be an issue, but I don't.
Just my experience; YMMV. My sister swears by it and maintains her weight loss.