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Monk Fruit for Weight Loss – What You Should Know

Monk Fruit

Many sweeteners derived from monk fruit, also known as luo han guo, are considered non-nutritive sweeteners as they have almost no calories. With a calorie count that is virtually zero, these monk fruit sweeteners may appeal to people trying to lose weight. As a bonus, pure monk fruit powder that contains no additives is pretty natural compared with most other sugar-free sweeteners out there. Read on to get the full scoop.

Why People Eager to Lose Weight Are Turning to Monk Fruit Sweeteners

Diets high in sugar (particularly those high in beverages sweetened with sugar) have been associated with weight gain and high levels of body fat (1, 2). As a result, many obese and overweight people eager to lose weight have turned to artificial sugar substitutes such as aspartame, acesulfame-K and cyclamate which contain no or very few calories. However, the perceived "artificiality" of these sweeteners has put many people off, in particular parents who would rather not serve foods and drinks containing unnatural chemicals to their children.

So, given all that, it is no wonder that more natural sugar-free sweeteners derived from plants such as stevia or monk fruit have been gaining popularity among dieters who want to keep their weight in check while reducing their exposure to unnatural substances that can negatively impact their health. Monk fruit, also known by its scientific name Siraitia grosvenorii, has close to zero calories per serving once it's dried and turned into powder. What's more, mogrosides, the compounds that give monk fruit its sweet flavor, have been shown to suppress weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet (3).

Not All Monk Fruit Sweeteners Are 100% Monk Fruit Extract

Disclosure: This article contains Amazon affiliate links.

Monk fruit extracts are, or have been, sold under various brand names including Lakanto, Nectresse, Purefruit, Monk Fruit in the Raw, Fruit-Sweetness, and Julian Bakery's Pure Monk (many of these are available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk). But, if it was the reputation of monk fruit as a natural, sugar-free low-calorie sweetener that sparked your interest in this Asian fruit in the first place, beware: some monk fruit based sweeteners also contain ingredients other than extracts of the Siraitia grosvenorii fruit, and some of these ingredients are not particularly "natural" or low in calories.

For example, molasses, a calorie-dense by-product of the refining of sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar, is often used in sweeteners in combination with monk fruit extracts, as are erythritol and dextrose. Although erythritol and dextrose (corn sugar) are typically derived from corn, some people try to avoid them because they may be derived from genetically modified corn. In addition, the sugar alcohol erythritol may cause gastrointestinal complaints and nausea in some people and/or when consumed in large doses (4).

For those who prefer a pure, one-ingredient product, Amazon sells Julian Bakery's one-ingredient monk fruit powder here. This sweet, brownish powder is marketed as "100% pure, all-natural, virtually no-calorie sugar substitute, derived from the goodness of real fruit" (5). It is worth noting, though, that there is little information about how exactly this powder is made (i.e. what steps are involved in the production process). This powder is also quite pricey—although, as it is about 100-250 times more intense than table sugar (5), you won't need much.

1. A. Drewnowski and F. Bellisle (2007). Liquid calories, sugar, and body weight. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 85, 651-661 (2007). [PubMed]
2. V. Malik, M. Schulze, and F. Hu (2006). Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84, 274-288. [PubMed]
3. S. Bai-Shen et al (2012). Anti-obesity effects of mogrosides extracted from the fruits of Siraitia grosvenorii (Cucurbitaceae). African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 6(20), 1492-1501.
4. D. Storey et al (2007). Gastrointestinal tolerance of erythritol and xylitol ingested in a liquid. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61(3):349-54. [PubMed]
5. Julian Bakery website, accessed on June 22, 2016.

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