This Popular Sugar Substitute Can Actually Help Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

If you're sweet on sugar, you aren't doing your heart or belly any favors. So check out this sugar replacement—it might even help you shed pounds.

sugarTatiana Gordievskaia8/ShutterstockEver heard of stevia? It’s a plant-based sweetener that’s a popular alternative to sugar for people who are counting their calories. Stevia comes with some “sweet” benefits—such as helping control blood sugar. If you haven’t made the sugar switch yet, new research from the Journal of Medicinal Food is reporting more, previously unknown benefits to stevia that may convince you otherwise: The sweetener may protect against several deadly conditions that can combine to create metabolic syndrome, which dramatically raises your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. (Here’s what you should know about metabolic syndrome.)

For their study, researchers Areli Carrera-Lanestosa and Maira Segura-Campos, Autonomous University of Yucatan and Yolanda Moguel-Ordóñez, National Institute for Forest, Agronomic, and Livestock Research, Yucatan, Mexico, analyzed extracts of the stevia rebaudiana (SR) plant to understand its complete pharmacological and therapeutic effects. The researchers paid particular attention to how the extract could be used as a natural alternative to disorders associated with the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, including obesity, hypertension, and elevated levels of blood sugar and lipids. The CDC estimates that more than 30 percent of adults in the United States live with the syndrome.

The researchers believe the same compounds responsible for the plant’s sweetness could be used in the prevention of metabolic syndrome. In their findings, the researchers note that when they replaced sugar in the diets of lab rats with stevia, the rats showed a decrease in daily caloric intake, and in some cases, lost one pound over a 10-day period. In further examining the components that make up the SR plant, including the leaves, flowers, and roots, the researchers found that the compounds in SR have the potency to be used as a natural treatment for diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. The plant also contains several phytochemicals including phenols and flavonoids, which can help burn fat.

While the study results are promising, the authors say they need to do more research to figure out the mechanisms at work. Until more is understood about the possible benefits of SR, here are ways to kick sugar from your diet, starting now.

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