So I was working the other day, and a guy came in. He said he can’t drink that much sugar and thus ordered unsweetened iced tea. I gave him his tea and decided to be nice and recommend a product that I use in place of sugar in my own drinks: Splenda. As soon as I recommend then item to him he responded with a swift “That’s chemicals”
I almost had my own little Tim Minchin moment in my response when I said quick as a whip “Everything is chemicals.” He seemed a bit taken aback by this “Y-yeah, that’s right, but that’s man-made garbage!” he responded, pointing at the packet of Splenda in my hand. I stared at him for a moment as he took a bite into his deepfried tortilla shell consisting of trans-fats and high caloric content, filled to the brim with processed cheese and sour cream and mechanically separated “seasoned” beef and thought the whole outburst a bit ironic. He claimed that he wanted to die of gunshot wound, not cancer, but I am fairly certain the trail to Obesity by consuming trans-fats was not the best solution to the Cancer fear.
Which brings me to the notion that Fear-mongering in itself is idiotic. Let alone if you are hypocritical in the process. But why fear Splenda? Splenda, also known as Sucralose, is approved for use by the FDA and has been intensively examined in over 110 separate studies. So I accept that this sweetener is safe for consumption because it has never been shown otherwise. The only issue I would have is that Splenda is not entirely “calorie free,” a single packet of Splenda has 3.36 calories due to the maltodextrine used to give it more mass. It is legally defined as calorie free, however, due to it having less than 5 calories per serving.
There are also other sweeteners that are considered bad, but really aren’t. Saccharine and Aspertame are two that I can think of. There are no evidence that any artificial sweetener has been linked to any increased likelihood of cancer, and the only people who spout that they are, are objectifying to the term “artificial” as if that means “bad.” If you ride a car to work, enjoy Air Conditioning and the internet, and prefer to use a refrigerator instead of a wooden ice box to store your food, you have no say in being against anything on the basis of how “natural” or “artificial” it is.
And if artificial sweeteners are not known to cause any carcinogenic effects, why fear them? Yes, diet soda use is not known to cause a significant decrease in the weight of drinkers, but there is no related cause for that. Nobody knows if the diet soda simply isn’t working, or if it is connected to what is called the Big Mac, Large Fry, and the Diet Coke effect. Which is to say that diet soda drinkers overcompensate for saved calories by overconsuming more food.
“But some countries have banned certain sweeteners!!!”
While there are some sweeteners that are banned for causing harm, such as the historical Lead Acetate, many sweeteners that are banned, including Cylclamate in America, are still not shown to cause any form of cancer in humans. Besides, a country banning something is not in and of itself indicitive of any harm done, as 15 countries have banned the book The Satanic Verses and we all know that a book is not harmful.
So being told that something is “man-made garbage” tells you more about the ignorant ideas of the person spouting the claim than about any product they are talking about. Skepticism is a man’s best friend.
To end this, here is some more information about the claims against artificial sweeteners by one of my favorite authors of all time, Dr. Aaron Carroll: