Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener option. Previous research of zero-calorie sweeteners found that they reduce available energy. However, it has not been determined how they impact appetite, subsequent food intake, and neurocognitive responses. A randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover study compared caloric and non-caloric sweeteners for their effects on food intake, appetite, blood glucose concentrations, and attentional bias (AB) to food cues.
Researchers enrolled 20 healthy patients (mean age, 27 years; 55% were female; mean body mass index, 21.8 kg/m2) who completed five visits and consumed five study beverages: 330 mL water (control, no sweet taste, no calories) and either 330 mL water containing 40 g glucose or sucrose (sweet taste; calories, both 160 kcal), maltodextrin (no sweet taste; calories, 160 kcal), or 240 ppm stevia (sweet taste, no calories). The glucose and stevia beverages had the same sweetness. Subjective appetite ratings and blood glucose were recorded at baseline and again at 15, 30, and 60 minutes postprandially. A visual-dot probe task was performed to analyze AB to food cues at 15 minutes. Patients were offered lunch after 30 minutes, and their food intake was recorded.
Both preload sweetness and calorie content impacted appetite. Consumption of caloric beverages led to a significantly higher total area under the curve for glycemia (mean: maltodextrin, 441; glucose, 462; sucrose, 425 mmol × min × L−1 ) than stevia (320 mmol × min × L−1) and water (304 mmol × min × L−1) (P<0.001 for all). The combined beverage and meal energy intake was much lower after consumption of the stevia beverage (mean, 727 kcal) than water (mean, 832; P=0.013); there were no significant differences after consumption of water compared with the caloric beverages (P=1.00 for water vs. maltodextrin, glucose, and sucrose). No significant differences were observed in food-related AB among the groups (P=0.140).