Is it true that stevia causes belly fat?
In this whole weight loss and health game, I like to be my own grand experiment to see what works for me and makes me feel amazing, hopefully all the time.
So I read up on different healthy food related topics, try them on for size, then make up my own mind as to whether what is written is true for me. Which is why I might be in favour of a product at a point in time, but after using for six months or more, I will change my mind because of the effects it has on me.
One of these products for which I have had a recent switch-o change-o is Stevia.
Stevia is a green plant that looks like this…
And if you grew this in your backyard and popped a few leaves in your tea every now and then, we probably wouldn’t be having this chat.
However after various amounts of processing (did anyone say highly processed refined sweetener?) it ends up looking like green powder at first (which I tried at one point and it was quite yuk. So yuk in fact that I couldn’t finish the packet and threw it away. I hate wasting food but I just couldn’t stand this.)
So that means it undergoes even more processing to become a more palatable white powder with a knock out sweetness factor of 1 teaspoon being equivalent to 1 cup of sugar. A little goes a very long way.
I was the champion of Stevia for quite a while there – it has no calories, didn’t seem to have any of the normal negative effects of artificial sweeteners, supposed to be all natural. The Japanese have been using it for centuries without any ill effects and yet in two different instances something curious happened for me.
When away on our recent Hawaiian holiday, I didn’t have Stevia for the whole two weeks. I ate other foods I normally didn’t eat and we were pretty active the whole time. After the first week though, I started to notice that my stomach and mid section started to reduce. With the way I eat now, I am pretty slim all over but still had a bit of stubborn belly fat and seemed to be bloated most of the time. I don’t eat grains, so it definitely wasn’t a wheat belly but whatever it was, not having Stevia seemed to make it go away.
When I got back home, I just resumed having Stevia in my tea or hot chocolate as I normally do. I didn’t think much of it until I was doing a 3 day detox with Schkinny Maninny, which meant no Stevia again, and the same mid section reducing happened again.
So is it possible that stevia causes belly fat? I thought I would look into it a little more and found some information on other blogs and this is what they had to say…
“Stevia contributes to abdominal weight gain and messes with your hormones” – eeek!
Read more here.
From a study done it said “Both the stevia leaves and stevioside diets significantly increased abdominal fat content.”
Read more here.
This post explores more about the effects on your hormones and she noticed changes in her menstrual cycle as well as detox pains when trying to get off it.
Making it worse
I think for me, the way I was eating it was exacerbating the problem. It was in my tea on an empty stomach and pretty much all day. Here is an explanation of what happens from the Detox Diva:-
“The problem with this point is that stevia, being a “sweet” taste to the body, tricks the body into believing there will be glucose (the body’s preferred fuel.) So the body clears the way for this glucose by lowering blood sugar in the body clearing the way for glucose to be released. When it isn’t released, and it won’t be because stevia doesn’t contain glucose, adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize (it from body stores.) Or worse (for those on low to no carb diets) it creates sugar from tissues like liver, muscle tissue, other body tissues, glands like the thymus, or proteins geared to create muscle tissue.”
So it leads to being hypoglycemic (not enough glucose), which stresses the body and affects more hormones. Now when I think about it, when I did have it like this, I felt like I needed more of the tea, one cup after the other as the body was trying to find fuel but it wasn’t getting any. By continuing to drink it, I was just making it worse.
Some people use Stevia in cooking where there are already other sweeteners present, just to elevate the sweetness a little more without all the calories. Used in this way, all the above may not be as pronounced.
Even if all this is not scientifically proven, I can tell by the effects it had on increasing my mid section, that it is not something I should be eating regularly or long term. The stories from others just confirm it too.
Belly fat is one thing however the most concerning part for me is any possible damage or effects to hormones. My mother and grandmother both had breast cancer caused by estrogen dominance. So anything I eat that may mess with that, is definitely off the table for me. It’s just not worth it.
I have been about a month off it again and when I have my hot chocolate, I am just having a teaspoon of honey in it. It doesn’t taste as sweet but I’m getting used to that and it definitely feels like it’s feeding my brain. I feel more alert and less spacey. Also my mid section is continuing to reduce again with only this small change and still never being hungry – just picking the right things to eat.
So this whole health thing is a journey of discovery and if I change my mind about something I am certainly going to tell you because I want you to feel fantastic too!
Live & learn,
I’ve also figured out how to eat for health, high energy and optimal metabolic function. It’s based on the recommendations by Dr Ray Peat. I’ve finally figured out the balance of macros and calories that helped me maintain high body temperature and lose weight too. It’s all detailed in my book the Zen Beach Diet: