Artificial sweeteners are used by millions of slimmers to cut their calories and lower their sugar intake. A more recent option, Stevia, is a natural, plant based sugar alternative which can be bought in liquid, powder and granulated forms to be used in tea and coffee, or in baking. It is also added to fizzy drinks, chewing gum and soy sauce.
Because it is derived from a plant, some people see Stevia as healthier than artificial sweeteners and it is becoming increasingly popular. A study has found that Stevia lowers glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity. Other studies have shown that Stevia can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and can reduce signs of fatty liver disease.
Like most things however, there may be some negatives. Some animal studies suggest that sweeteners trick the brain, increasing your appetite and a study published in the journal Molecules last year suggests that Stevia may upset the balance of beneficial gut bacteria and may explain reports of stomach pain and bloating from people who use it over the long term.