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.

Advertisements

Incandescent, CFL, & LED bulbs: Pros & Cons

OK.  I’ve just heard of a new federal mandate that would effectively prohibit the sale of the incandescent light bulb, long a staple of many households.  I’m all for finding a way to fulfill my current lighting requirements with less energy consumption but I’d rather take a logical approach to the problem than follow a mandate that does not take such an analysis into consideration.  Setting aside the fact that this represents yet another intrusion of government into the internal affairs of the individual, a pro-con analysis needs to be done.  Let’s start with the pros and cons of the incandescent bulb:

The pros:

They’re cheap and their efficiency increases with higher wattage consumption.

The cons:

These wattage consumptions are more than many of us are comfortable with given the increasing energy costs.

Which brings me to the CFL bulb:

The pros:

They’re much more efficient than incandescents and they’ve come to be nearly as cheap as incandescents.

The cons:

They contain unsafe levels of mercury.  This results in some hidden costs besides the obvious risk to the environment and our health should the mercury contained in these bulbs leak into the environment.  Because of this if you break a CFL bulb you can’t just sweep up the debris and toss it.  You have to call in an environmental cleaning crew (who will be wearing HAZMAT suits) and that will likely cost a good couple of thousand bucks.  The waste management services of most localities also implement special procedures for dealing with CFL bulb waste, procedures that cost money to implement.  This results in a higher local property tax bill for everyone.

Which brings me now to the LED bulb:

The pros:

They’re much more efficient, more efficient than even CFL’s (at least at lower wattage equivalencies such as the 60-watt equivalency).  They also contain no mercury, eliminating that risk to our health and the environment.  They also last much longer than either incandescents or CFL’s.

The cons:

They cost plenty to buy.  The average LED bulb costs roughly $40 – $50 for a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb.  Their efficiency also drops with higher wattage consumption.  For example: LED’s are more efficient than CFL’s at the 60-watt equivalency but at the 100-watt equivalency, from what I read, an LED bulb would have to consume at least 30 watts of power, giving the CFL the advantage in energy efficiency in this higher wattage equivalency (CFL can produce 100-watt equivalent light consuming only 26 watts of power).  Also a 100-watt equiv. LED would be roughly several times the size of a standard bulb and probably cost roughly $100 – $200!  (eek!)  But it would still make the LED much more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

But despite the cons, if you can afford these initial one-time costs for the LED bulbs, the energy cost savings could possibly offset the cost of the bulbs.  The tricky part is actually coming up with the money for these LED bulbs, especially in this tough economy (unless of course Bill Gates is feeling generous enough to replace every light fixture in the US with an LED bulb, but I’m not holding my breath  :-P).