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The Health Benefits of Stevia-Based Sweeteners

Sweetness in Practice Contributor - Sep 9, 2015
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Recent research shows that non-nutritive sweeteners are a viable option to help consumers reduce added sugars in some of the foods and beverages they love. Truvía® brand Healthcare Ambassador and Nutritionist, Sweetness in Practice Contributor, discusses the benefits of stevia leaf extract in the diet as a sweetening agent and how it can help support wellness.

Many Americans have a sweet tooth that is contributing to a serious obesity epidemic in the U.S. Fortunately, stevia leaf extract is a great alternative that may help individuals “have their cake and eat it too,” while still minding their sugar intake. The extract comes from the leaves of the stevia plant, which was discovered hundreds of years ago in Paraguay, and has been used worldwide for decades. Sweeteners that contain stevia leaf extract may be preferred because stevia leaf extract is plant-based, delivers a sweet and clean taste, and only a tiny amount is needed.

If you’re like me and counsel clients about how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the many alternatives to sugar and their respective pros and cons. Here’s a look at some of the health benefits associated with stevia-based sweeteners.

What Exactly is Stevia Leaf Extract?

Stevia leaf extract is born from the sweet leaves of the stevia plant, which is a member of the chrysanthemum family and is native to South America. To extract the plant’s intense natural sweetness, stevia leaves are harvested and dried. The leaves are then steeped in hot water. The resulting liquid extract is filtered, purified, and dried, resulting in the crystalized stevia leaf extract.

Weight Management

According to 2010 Dietary Guidelines, an average of 16% of Americans’ total caloric intakes came from added sugars.1 Because consuming extra calories through added sugars may contribute to excess weight or obesity, prominent organizations, like the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, urge consumers to curb intake of added sugars. Replacing energy-dense sweeteners with stevia-based sweeteners, like Truvía® Natural Sweetener, may be a better option and encourage smarter choices.

A 2011 joint statement from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association concluded that evidence suggests, if there is no compensatory increase in calories from other sources, “when used judiciously, [the FDA-approved nonnutritive sweeteners] could facilitate reductions in added sugars intake, thereby resulting in decreased total energy and weight loss/weight control, and promoting beneficial effects on related metabolic parameters.”2

I often get asked if switching to a zero-calorie sweetener will result in weight loss. Although more research is needed, one recent study suggests yes. A 12-week human clinical trial reported that dieters who consumed non-nutritive sweetened beverages lost significantly more weight compared to dieters who were instructed to drink water.3 In addition, data from the National Weight Control Registry reveals that 53% of people who have successfully maintained weight loss enjoy beverages sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners once a day or more.4

Some have questioned the safety of zero-calorie sweeteners. However, when it comes to Truvía® Natural Sweetener, consumers can be reassured. Truvía® Natural Sweetener is made with a highly purified stevia leaf extract, erythritol, and natural flavors. Since 2008, the FDA has reviewed and approved numerous GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) notifications related to purified stevia leaf extract. Truvía® stevia leaf extract is approved for use in many products. Thus, Truvía® Natural Sweetener and Truvía® stevia leaf extract can play a role in helping consumers enjoy diets more consistent with the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, while still satisfying that ever persistent sweet tooth.

Blood Glucose & Blood Pressure

Stevia-based sweeteners are zero- or low-calorie, and provide fewer calories per gram than caloric sweeteners. The sweetening ingredients in Truvía® Natural Sweetener, stevia leaf extract and erythritol, do not increase blood glucose levels. In fact, one study that looked at individuals with type 2 diabetes found that consuming doses as high as 1000 mg per day of purified stevia leaf extract (the amount contained in 35 packets of Truvía® Natural Sweetener) was well tolerated and did not alter blood glucose or blood pressure.5

Those with diabetes should understand, however, that foods and beverages that contain Truvía® Natural Sweetener are not always carbohydrate-free or low in carbohydrates. In addition, when cooking and baking, it is important to keep in mind that Truvía® Brown Sugar Blend does contain 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of carbohydrate per ½ teaspoon. One-half cup of Truvía® Brown Sugar Blend provides the same sweetness at 210 calories, compared with one cup of brown sugar at 830 calories. Truvía® Cane Sugar Blend contains less than 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams carbohydrate per ½ teaspoon. One-half cup Truvía® Cane Sugar Blend contains 190 calories and provides the same sweetness as one cup of sugar at 760 calories.

Dental Health

Consuming digestible carbohydrates—sugars and starches—increases the risk of dental caries. Truvía® Natural Sweetener contains erythritol, which clinical studies have shown does not promote tooth decay.6 As a result, Truvía® Natural Sweetener is considered a tooth-friendly sweetener.

To learn more about how Truvía® sweetener can play a useful role in a healthy balanced diet, click here. »


References:

  1. 3Peters JC, Wyatt HR, Foster GD, et al. The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program. Obesity. 2014 22: 1415–1421.

  2. 4Catenacci VA, Pan Z, Thomas JG, et al. Low/no calorie sweetened beverage consumption in the National Weight Control Registry. Obesity 2014 Oct;22(10):2244-51.

  3. 5Maki KC, Curry LL, Reeves MS, et al. Chronic consumption of rebaudioside A, a steviol glycoside, in men and women with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Jul;46 Suppl 7:S47-53.

  4. 6Honkala S, Runnel R, Saag M, Olak J, Nommela R, Russak S, et al. Effect of erythritol and xylitol on dental caries prevention in children. Caries Res 2014;48(5):482-90.