Weight management means keeping body weight at a healthy level. Body fat and body mass measurements are used to determine whether a person is under- or overweight. The recommended amount of body fat differs for men and women. Body mass index (BMI) is an indirect measurement of body composition. It takes into consideration both weight and height. BMI helps determine risk for certain diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.
Stevia is an herb in the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and is native to subtropical and tropical regions of South America and Central America. Stevia is a sugar substitute and its taste has a slower onset and longer duration than sugar. Because stevia’s extracts have 300 times the sweetness of sugar, it has gained a great deal of attention due to the demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar alternatives especially since it has zero calories. For many years stevia was used for treating heartburn and diabetes. Recent research has shown promise for stevia in treating obesity, high blood pressure and hypertension. Diabetics and others on carbohydrate-controlled diets (hypo/hyperglycemia) use stevia as a natural sweetener because of its low effect on blood glucose.
Aspartame is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener used as a sugar substitute in many foods and beverages. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar in typical concentrations, without the high energy value of sugar. While aspartame, like other peptides, has a caloric value of 4 kilocalories (17 kilojoules) per gram, the quantity of aspartame needed to produce a sweet taste is so small that its caloric contribution is negligible. The taste of aspartame is not identical to that of sugar: the sweetness of aspartame has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar.
Low calorie sweeteners instead of sugar may be an effective strategy for weight management. Researchers at the Institute on Aging at the University of Florida tested the effect of preloads containing stevia, aspartame or sucrose (sugar) on food intake, satiety and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. The study included 19 healthy lean and 12 obese individuals between the ages of 18-50 who completed three separate food test days during which they received either low-calorie pre-loads of stevia (290kcal) or asparatame (290kcal) or sucrose (493kcal) before lunch and dinner. The results were participants consuming stevia or aspartame did not try to compensate for the lower caloric intake by eating more food. There were no differences reported in satiety and hunger levels. Participants experienced lower blood glucose and insulin levels when consuming stevia. The researchers wrote “The key finding was that participants did not compensate by eating more at either their lunch or dinner meal when they consumed lower calorie preloads containing stevia or aspartame compared to when they consumed higher calorie preloads containing sucrose.”1
1 Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010.