A couple of weeks ago I added the natural, nearly carb-free, sugar replacement stevia to my diet. With that addition came a relentless urge to snack (which I chalked up to cyclic moodiness, ahem) and an upward creep in weight. What the…? My appetite had stopped nagging me ages ago, when I gave up sugar and flour. Suddenly all I could do was think about scarfing down the rest of my Blueberry Coffee Cake after everyone else went to sleep (it’s mine, all MINE!). What was going on?
Curious, I went to The Interwebs for an answer, because The Interwebs KNOWS ALL. A search on ‘appetite’ and ‘stevia’ on Google turned up some interesting information.
First, I noticed that while many people state they have no noticeable appetite effects from stevia, many other people say that stevia very much increases their appetite…and these people are bewildered, because the marketing hype says stevia doesn’t do that.
The second interesting bit of information — and this has bearing on the first bit of info — is this: Stevia is used as an appetite stimulant for livestock in Asia and South America, and thereby to stimulate growth. Hmm…stevia increases appetite in animals. (Hey…I’m an animal! Doesn’t that mean…d’oh!)
It’s interesting how different the advertising is on the human, weight-loss-miracle side from the animal, fatten-em-up side. Look at the ad copy for the benefits of stevia for humans:
“It is believed that a defect exists between the stomach and the hypothalamus in many people who are overweight, which fails to “turn off’ hunger sensations when the person is actually full. It appears, from the initial research, that Stevia may correct this defect and actually reset the hunger mechanism, thus “turning off’ hunger sensations when satiation has occurred.”
That’s a lovely bit of marketing. And for hens and hogs:
“Stevia increases animal’s appetite, multiplies useful microbes in animal’s digestive organs, promotes digestion, and accelerates growth.”
…so which is it? Does it curb a voracious appetite, or does it boost a lagging appetite? Or is it like nicotine, which both stimulates and depresses simultaneously? Can stevia actually both stimulate and repress the appetite? Or does it depend entirely on the individual (two legs or four)? Or is it only what the marketing department thinks we want to hear?
You can see I’m a bit bewildered myself. Until I find answers, I’ll be using less stevia. Not because I don’t trust the labeling (what labeling CAN you trust?), but because an increase in appetite isn’t something a middle-aged woman tends to be happy wrestling with…at least this middle-aged woman isn’t. If I need a little sweet, some good ol’ fruit or some honey will work, just as it did before I introduced stevia into my recipes. The taste of the stuff isn’t great, so the trade-off of minimal carbs for roaring hunger isn’t quite worth it to me.
Your mileage may vary, as they say on The Interwebs. If stevia replaces sugar in your diet and doesn’t make you want to empty the fridge at 2 a.m., go for it. Lucky you!