Stevia is an appetite stimulant…for livestock?

Stevia rebaudiana flowers

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!


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5 Responses to Stevia is an appetite stimulant…for livestock?

  1. that is really interesting. I’ve been using less stevia these days as well. what are your thoughts on agave nectar as a sweetener?

    • Hi Holly, and welcome. 🙂

      Agave is, unfortunately, not a good alternative as a sweetener. Where high fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose — the part of sugar that raises triglycerides — agave, touted as a healthy alternative, is actually over 90% fructose. So while it has a better glycemic index than sugar due to the low glucose count — which is part of how they sell it — it has a much more aggressive impact on the body than sugar or HFCS, which means heading that much faster on down the road to sugar-related disorders. My advice is to stay away!

    • Also, here’s an article summing up some points regarding Agave:

      I hope this is helpful. 🙂

  2. Amanda Jones says:

    Thankfully I don’t use Stevia as much as I so xylosweet, ideal brown, and Truvia. I might use it to help enhance Truvia in a recipe such as low carb spaghetti sauce or your homemade tomato soup that I made two nights ago. I prefer the Stevia in the Raw, less bitter to me. I also made those oopsies buns…they were amazing! I just wish they could be made without the yolks, I’m sensitive to them and while it’s spreads the three eggs out to half an egg per bun it was still enough to cause me some discomfort the next day. However, I was wondering if almond flour could be added to help stabilize the buns a bit more and improve the texture somewhat. Otherwise I was impressed with them (and the soup) and had just enough for leftovers the next day. Definitely a keeper!!

    • Hello Amanda, thanks for stopping by! I’ve not tried Oopsies without the yolk; that would be an interesting experiment. Do let me know if you hit upon a working solution! I’m not eating them right now as I’m experimenting with no-dairy to see if my health improves at all.

      In the time since I wrote this post, I’ve found that stevia makes me more likely to indulge in sugary treats by keeping my sweet tooth active. I did much better just avoiding sweet foods! My mistake was using it to create desserts (like whipped coconut milk, stevia, and vanilla — *too* delicious!) rather than just using it as a recipe enhancer like you do. I truly need to dial this back as it also makes me eat more than I otherwise might. I wonder if the stevia itself is stimulating appetite (as in the links in my post), or if it’s just that sweets in general raise appetite? Either way, it’s time for me to cut back!

      So glad you liked the tomato soup. I was so sad to see corn syrup in the Campbell’s!

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