Can a Natural Sweetener Control Blood Sugar Levels?
For several years, the main concern with non-nutritive sweeteners (such as sucralose, aspartame, etc.) was that they can interfere with normal blood sugar levels by causing the body to release insulin when no glucose is entering the blood stream. This can result in a re-bound effect where the release of insulin causes hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar), which can cause fatigue and increased carbohydrate cravings.
However, recent research published in the journal Nature Communications shows that one sweetener in particular pay actually benefit our blood sugar levels: Stevia.
The sweetener branded as Stevia is derived naturally from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. This particular sweetener has been shown through animal research to activate a particular protein, TRPM5, which, according to the researchers
“Plays an important role in taste perception as well as the release of the hormone insulin after eating” (Vennekens, R., 2017).
This finding indicates that consuming Stevia as a sugar substitute is likely safe long-term for blood sugar control because it does not produce the same re-bound effect on blood sugar as many other sweeteners.
Additionally, the authors speculate that Stevia may be able to serve as a treatment for diabetes due to its indirect role in stimulating insulin secretion.
However, the head researcher notes that this possibility is mere conjecture at this point, and that more research must be done before this possibility can be confirmed.
Take Away Message
If you struggle to find ways to naturally decrease the sugar in your diet, rest assured that using Stevia as a sweetener or consuming products with this additive in it is not only safe, but also may benefit your blood sugar levels.
Vennekens, R., Phillippaert, K., et al. (2017). Steviol glycosides enhance pancreatic beta-cell function and taste sensation by potentiation of TRPM5 channel activity. Nature Communications, 8 (14733), doi:10.1038/ncomms14733