This article says my opinion best: Effect of Non-nutritive Sweetener Consumption from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Repeated exposure to low-energy foods containing non-nutritive sweeteners could lead to a non-cognitive expectation that their consumption would contribute little energy to the diet. Thus, if presented with a higher energy version with similar sensory properties, intake may reﬂect the expected, rather than the true energy value, which leads to greater energy consumption."
Fancy words, I know. So let me put it into food terms! You drink a non-nutritive sweetener (Splenda, Aspartame, Steiva, ANY OF THEM) in your coffee every morning. Coffee has no calories and neither does your sweetener, so, you're getting this sweet flavor without adding any calories to your daily intake. You're thinking, "cool, I can lose weight." However, you buy a skinny brownie or a skinny latte that has one of these non-nutritive sweeteners. These products also have fat and calories, unlike your coffee. But, in order to get that same "high" from the sweetener, you eat more and your body doesn't think anything of it. Therefore, you increase your intake of high fat foods laced with non-nutritive sweeteners and increase your calorie intake without even realizing it. BOOM. Weight gain sneaks up on you. Be mindful, this loop applies to ALL non-nutritive sweeteners. So, my beloved Stevia is also part of it. However, I choose my sweetener based on what my body can recognize, because I don't like eating chemicals :)
- Splenda: Trade name for sucrolose, artifical sweetner. Sucrolose is made by replacing three select hydrogen-oxygen groups on sucrose (table sugar) with three chlorine atoms. Cool, so I'm eating chlorine?
- Truvia: Contains 3 different ingredients. Erythritol (sugar alchol): Made by fermenting glucose with a yeast. Rebiana: chemical derived from Stevia leaves. Side note: Cargill has patents out which give it exclusive rights to sell Rebiana in beverages. Finally, Natural Flavors: Hmm, the word "natural" on a label is not FDA-regulated and has no standard of identity in the food world. So what does it do and why is it there? To confuse customers and trick them into buying products they believe are healthy.
- Stevia in the Raw: Ingredients: Stevia Leaf Extract, Dextrose. Dextrose (carbohydrate derived from corn) is used in the product as a "bulking" agent. If the company wouldn't use the dextrose, the serving size of the Stevia in the Raw would be super small and hard for consumers to use/measure without overdoing it.
- Sweetleaf: Stevia sweetener that uses "inulin soluble fiber" as it's bulking agent (in case you don't like the idea of having a corn derived carbohydrate that's found in Stevia in the Raw). This is also a USDA Certified Organic product which means it's gone though a lot of tests to make sure it's using all organic sources of stevia and the inulin!
After all my research, I think I've decided to change my mind yet AGAIN about what Stevia product I will use to sweeten my coffee. Based on the findings, SWEETLEAF is the winner!! I don't like that Stevia in the Raw isn't certified organic. This leads me to believe that the company may not be using the highest quality dextrose they can. I hope this goes to show that even though I'm a Registered Dietitian that has had 5 years of schooling and continuing education, I'm not immune to deception from big companies! I LOVED Truvia and thought that I was doing something good for my body by kicking the "Splenda" habit. Turns out that wasn't true. I LOVED Stevia in the Raw and again, thought I was making the right choice. But, I think that's going to prove incorrect in the near future. Here is what I know for a fact: the world of food producing and money making is an ever-evolving business that you have to research on your own in order to make informed decisions that you feel good about.
Finally, thinking of overall health. Let's eat more REAL stuff in moderation and less FAKE stuff in excess.