Splenda: Safe or Toxic?

 

 

When reading about the sweetener I use most often, Splenda, online I was awestruck at how many people claim to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is toxic and we should not be consuming it at all then begin to push all kinds of natural sweeteners, esp. stevia (an all natural sugar free sweetener made from the stevia plant).  Now, I have a preference for natural things as opposed to artificial things too which means I would prefer to use stevia to Splenda.  However my budget doesn’t always allow me to shell out the mucho bucks required for all-natural/organic products like the stevia sweetener.  So until stevia becomes cost-competitive with Splenda, I shall continue to use splenda.  But this preference for a natural sugar-free sweetener does not mean that I have the right to tell lies or half-truths in an attempt to discourage others from consuming these sugar substitutes.

The most glaring example of these lies/half-truths are found here:

http://www.easy-sugar-free-recipes.com/danger-of-splenda.html

I like this guy for providing good sugar-free/low-sugar recipes.  I, however, strongly disagree with his assertion that splenda is highly toxic.  Let’s begin with his personal experience.  He goes into humorous detail about his apparent adverse reaction to it when he ate some candy sweetened with splenda.  First of all, just because one person has an adverse reaction to a particular substance doesn’t automatically mean that it is unsafe.  this is the “chicken little” fallacy: to run around claiming “the sky is falling” just because something bad happens to one person as a result of doing something that in and of itself is not considered to be unsafe.  For example penicillin is not inherently allergenic to everybody just because some of us (like me) happen to break out in hives when exposed to penicillin.  So while I can’t use penicillin because of my allergy I can’t go around claiming that penicillin is unsafe for EVERYBODY.  Also, I think what happened is that he likely just saw the “sweetened with splenda” logo on the front and didn’t bother checking the ingredients list.  So his adverse reaction is his own fault.  I would advise him to check the ingredients list on these candies.  Because while these candies are indeed sweetened with Splenda, Splenda is not the only sweetener that tends to be present in these sugar-free candies.  Many producers of sugar-free candy tend to use sugar alcohols such as maltitol, xylitol, and sorbitol as a bulking agent.  While these sweeteners won’t spike blood sugar since they metabolize without needing insulin, these sugar acohols are well-known for causing precisely the adverse reaction that this guy suffered.  So Mr. Andrew Muller, check the ingredients list on these candies.  I’ll betcha that you’re gonna find either sorbitol, xylitol, or maltitol in addition to splenda in that list.  So Splenda is likely not the culprit for your adverse reaction to the candy.

Then there is Mr. Muller’s claim that it is toxic for everyone because of the chlorine.  OH NOEZ!! NOT THE CHLORINE!!  PLEASE!!  I’LL DO ANYTHING YOU ASK JUST DON’T GIVE ME THE CHLORINE TREATMENT!!!!  Now that my daily venting of my sarcastic side is over, I shall continue.  It is true that Splenda molecules contain chlorine, a substance, which in high enough concentrations, can be quite a potent disinfectant.  But this doesn’t mean that everything with chlorine in it is dangerous.  I’ll give an example of something else containing chlorine that we consume regularly: table salt.  Yes salt.  That well loved seasoning/flavoring agent.  It has chlorine in its molecular make up.  Why do you think salt’s scientific name is sodium CHLORIDE?!  Yet I don’t see him complaining about ordinary table salt.  We’ve been consuming salt for years without any adverse affects (except that people like me with high BP should limit sodium intake and notice I said LIMIT, not CUT OUT ALTOGETHER, an endeavor that would be nigh impossible).

His next point is that he claims Splenda increases your appetite.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But for the sake of argument let’s say it does.  An increase in appetite as a result of splenda consumption doesn’t necessarily mean that people are gonna get fat.  If you do notice an increase in appetite from Splenda, instead of reaching for that bag of potato chips or that snickers bar, try eating a food item defined by Weight Watchers as a power food (some examples of power foods are: most fruits/veggies, even canned as long as they aren’t packed in added sugar, extra lean ground beef (95% lean) and all-white meat ground turkey (99% lean)).  So if splenda does make you have a hunger pang before your next meal, try eating some carrot or celery sticks instead of that high-calorie snack.  I can almost guarantee that carrots and celery sticks will hold you over till your next meal a lot better than a snickers bar will.

His final claim, which is entirely bogus, is that there have been no credible long-term studies done on Splenda.  Are you kidding me?!?!?!  Nutritionists and the FDA and EPA have been studying Splenda ever since it first came out in 1998.  They’ve done every study they could think of short of rendering Splenda into component atoms and carrying out the same intensive studies on each of the atoms that make up a molecule of Splenda.

In conclusion, common sense and a little chemistry knowledge impel me to render the verdict of generally safe (though a rare few people might exhibit an allergic reaction to it, like my ex-gf for example….she gets a headache from any kind of sugar substitute, even the all-natural stevia sweetener) for human consumption and not inherently responsible for wrecking diets.  Splenda doesn’t wreck diets or the healthy eating choices that WW encourages you to make.  People’s bad food and drink choices, however, ARE the result of weight gain.

I would also add in a blurb about aspartame too.  People had the same “chicken little” reaction upon learning that aspartame caused cancer in rats.  In case you haven’t noticed, a human being is not a rat (unless he is a politician….:P ).  We’re not even the same species.  A substance that causes tumors in one species of living thing can be completely harmless in another.  I’ve been consuming Crystal Light (which uses aspartame and Ace-K, aka acesulfame potassium) for years now without any adverse health effects.

Pettiness in Dialogue

Liberals and conservatives have enough to debate about.  Should health care be socialized?  What should be done about the environment?  How should our needy be taken care of?  These are but a few of the many issues we discuss with each other every day.  Is it really necessary to stereotype certain eating habits as liberal or conservative?

Choices in the kind of food we eat are a personal choice which makes stereotyping such choices rather stupid if you ask me.  People tend to stereotype vegetarian/vegan lifestyles as something liberals do and meat-eating lifestyles as something conservatives do.  However I know plenty of meat-eating liberals and plenty of vegetarian/vegan conservatives.  In fact I’m looking into trying the vegan diet at least temporarily to lose some weight along with some exercise.

So when people in the debate decide to bring eating habits into the debate, that tells me that in order to resort to such pettiness, the debater that brought it up has no valid argument left on the issue being discussed.  I say this for both liberals and conservatives, stick to the issue being debated and leave each others’ eating habits alone.  Feel free to post about what kind of diet you have here in my comment board.

Ostensibly if you’re looking into going vegan sometimes it’s best to go in baby steps, such as first baking like a vegan.  I’ve been baking like one for awhile now as it helps me save on eggs and milk.  You’d be surprised at how many delicious egg-less and milk-less dessert recipes there are out there.  And for eggs it’s very easy  to substitute an egg vegan style: simply take 1 T. ground flax seed or cornstarch and mix it with 3 T. of water and replace every egg in the dessert recipe with it.  And in most dessert recipes milk can be replaced with water without loss of consistency and applesauce makes a good replacement for the fat in most baked desserts.

Was Bullying Primary Cause for Jamey’s Suicide?

There is nothing more horrendous, no act more inhuman, than to treat your fellow man like something you’d scrape off the bottom of your shoe and discard, no matter what you might think of the lifestyle the person leads.

Jamey Rodemeyer was a teen who felt driven to take his own life.  A very sad and very tragic time for his family and my prayers are with them.  And bullying anywhere is an issue that needs to be addressed.  Parents need to step up to the plate and teach their children that bullying is evil and inhumane.  But until that happens we need to teach our children how to deal with bullies, by teaching them some moves they can use to defend themselves against physical attacks and how to handle verbal attacks.

But is it right to blame bullying as the primary cause of this poor child’s suicide as some are doing?  Because many kids are unfortunately bullied, yet many of these kids grow up to lead normal and healthy lives and would never once think of taking their own lives.  So it seems to me that the only thing that could be blamed in this case is perhaps insufficient mental health services and counseling to help people who are bullied deal with its mental effects.

But it seems to me that the first step would be teaching our children that they are equal in dignity and worth as human beings and to stand up for themselves when someone suggests otherwise through bullying.

Charity vs. Altruism

Recently I have discovered additional insight as to why many Catholics, even those who are otherwise pretty conservative, support things like government welfare, including this health care mess. It has to do with the difference between charity and altruism.

Charity, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, is a free will gift of one’s own time, talent, and/or treasure to assist those who are less fortunate than we are. In Catholicism there is the principle of subsidiarity which “is opposed to all forms of collectivism.” Private non-profits (the higher-order entity) adhere to this principle by not forcing us (the lower-order entity) to give to them. In this was we still retain a sense of self when helping others.

Altruism, on the other hand, while it has in common with chaity concern for others as part of its definition, is vastly different from charity. This method of helping others violates the principle of subsidiarity. Altruism is defined as completely selfless concern for the welfare of others. Going from that definition the implication is clear. When altruism is placed in practice it means that to help others you must surrender your sense of self. And by surrendering your sense of self it opens you up to being reduced from a human being with civil liberties to a mere source of resources for the sole use of others. And once reduced to such a state one becomes no more than a slave to the class altruists seek to help and thus this leads to the very collectivism that the principle of subsidiarity so opposes. In fact it is altruism that has served as the moral basis for collectivism and slavery (which is really a form of collectivism anyway).  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “”The inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only a means for attaining it, or in viewing persons as mere means to that end, engenders unjust structures which ‘make Christian conduct in keeping with the commandments of the divine Law-giver difficult and almost impossible.'”

So to sum it up:

Charity is the self-ISH concern for the welfare of those who are less fortunate. This is another way collectivists seek to justify their view, by using the fact that we have forgotten that there are 2 different meanings for the term “selfish.” One meaning is the negative one, where being selfish means you exploit others for your own personal gain (the other meaning that you simply have a sense of yourself as a human being with dignity and natural rights). This leads me to altruism. Altruism is the opposite. It is self-LESS concern for others. But as we have seen, help for others without a sense of yourself (which is what self-LESS means) conforms more to the “exploit one group for the sake of another” meaning of “selfish.” In this way when altruism is allowed to take hold as a valid part of any economic system, slavery results. One group is effectively yoked to another in one collective. Kinda like those Borg drones in Star trek: TNG eh?

So while charity and altruism may at first glance appear to be synonyms, we see that they are in fact polar opposites. And since collectivism is slavery, and slavery condemned by the teachings of the Catholic Church, government welfare (including ObamaCare) even without provisions that include funding for things like abortions, is still a policy that conflicts with Church teaching.

Palm Sunday 2011

Palm Sunday 2011. The beginning of Holy Week for us Catholics. A sign that Lent is almost over and Easter is almost here. That the time when we can celebrate Christ’s triumph over sin and death, whose triumph grants us freedom from sin so that death no longer holds any power over us, is nearly at hand.

We call it Palm Sunday because of the Scripture passage where Christ first enters Jerusalem. He is greeted with open arms and shouts of acclamation and with people waving palms which are then laid along with their cloaks at His feet as He passes. They are overjoyed at his arrival. However just a few days later we see that they had a funny way of showing how much they loved Him. When He first got there they were overjoyed. Then a few days later these very same people hung Him on a cross, and the sins of mankind along with Him.

This situation from the Scriptures serves as a stark reminder of the pitfalls of seeking worldly recognition, fame, and riches. These things of the world as we have seen in Christ’s situation are transitory indeed. And such things usually require that you surrender your soul, to sacrifice Truth at the altar of seeking the imperfect and transient material things of the world. These things will never bring you true power and happiness. Only by recognizing that we have the capacity to love others as Christ loves us can we break the power of the world to sell our souls into material slavery.

MLK, JR. Day 2011

Today we remember a man named Martin Luther King, Jr.  Mr. King was a great man who lived in a time when oppression against blacks, esp. in the South, was rampant.  For the black people it was a time of great trials and tribulations that tested the faith and fortitude of many.  It was a time when a certain group of human beings were being denied basic civil liberties and were being treated with something less than the equal dignity and respect that should be afforded to all who are members of the human race due to something they had no control over, their skin color.

But despite all this, a man rose up and fought, usually with words but I’m sure he wouldn’t have begrudged the use of force if it was necessary for defense of self and others, to bring to the black peoples the same civil liberties the rest of us enjoy.  He wanted for black people the same civil liberties that allow every one else to work, live, and play as they see fit.

Dr. King was a great man who knew what things like freedom and liberty were and that they were being denied to certain human beings by the various state governments of the South, which had enacted gravely evil laws for just such a purpose called Jim Crow laws.  And the Ku Klux Klan was the great and terrible police force commissioned to enforce those terrible laws.  And they hated and moved against ANYONE who had the temerity to stand up and say “ENOUGH!  All humans deserve the civil liberties our founding fathers set forth in the Constitution of the United States!”  Anyone who expressed those sentiments usually found a burning cross on their lawn.  So this means that a great majority of Catholics woke up to this situation, as despite a minority Catholic population that tried to use Catholicism’s teachings to justify racism, most Catholics were on the side of blacks.  This is why the KKK weren’t too fond of Catholics either.

Dr. King was a great man who probably even figured that people would move against him and seek his life because of his fight for freedom for the black people.  And he did eventually give his very life for the cause of freedom.  For that he is to be remembered with honor and integrity for as long as the human race shall draw breath.

Today, however, I see at various universities Black SU’s, Asian SU’s, Greek SU’s, etc.  I also see reports of whites being beat up by blacks just because they decided to date a black person.  I hear reports of whites being called derogatory terms like “cracker.”

I ask, is this what Dr. King fought and gave his blood and his very life for?  To watch from Heaven as his people use the same exclusionary tactics that the whites once used to such great effect?  Or to watch as his people push whites around the in same way they were once pushed around?

Dr. King wanted one thing: for all humans of all races to one day stand together and declare themselves equal in their humanity.  And what I have seen this day and age I firmly believe causes Dr. King’s soul great and terrible anguish as he watches while people say “Hey look at me I’m black!” or “I’m Greek!  Aren’t we so special?”  instead of “Hey, look at us, our skin color is different.  But let us not let skin color get in the way of the fact that we all share the same genome, the human genome.  And nevermore shall such pettiness divide us, we who are made in the image and likeness of God whose faces are as infinite as ours.”  I implore people of all races, do not let Dr. King’s sacrifice be in vain.  Let his work have some meaning.

God: The True North of our Moral Compass

In the Emmaus Men’s Spirituality Group meeting today, I was happy to gaze upon a segment of Scripture that caused me to think long and hard.  This segment is where Jesus rebukes those who did deeds in His name but committed grave sins.  Basically He rebuked them as hypocrites.  He also used the “house of sand” metaphor to illustrate the consequences of living such a two-faced life.

But it occurred to me that a compass could also serve to illustrate this concept very well, and it is a concept more readily understood by sailors, hikers, etc.  I can’t use a compass worth a darn mainly cuz I’m clueless as to how to set the bezel and all that jazz.  But my time in Boy Scouts does me well here to bring this illustration to fruition.

A compass is a tool used to give people a sense of direction by maintaining a vector lock on true North.  This is a very great tool provided one knows how to use it properly and steers clear of areas that cause the compass to lose that lock, Which is a strange but consistent occurrence in the Bermuda Triangle, one of nature’s greatest unsolved mysteries.  In the Bermuda Triangle you can forget about trying to get your compass to maintain any sort of vector lock on true North.

Our moral compass is the same way.  It can easily get lost in the mysterious and dangerous Bermuda Triangle of our sinfulness and the moral relativism that we use in attempt to rationalize it.  As with a regular compass, our moral compass can only regain a vector lock on true North (God), when it leaves the Bermuda Triangle.  This is why we must endeavor to keep our moral compass locked firmly on God, our true North, and resist the temptation to navigate the Bermuda Triangle of sinfulness and debauchery because that is the only way we can have a clear moral direction for ourselves.

This is just me though.  I don’t know about the rest of you.  But I will continue to pray to God daily for the strength to keep this vector lock straight and true.