The War on Splenda.
Splenda (or Sucralose) is a sucrose based no calorie sweetener. Splenda and other no calorie sweeteners are becoming increasing available in various foodstuffs and restaurants because they provide the sweetness of sugar with none of the calories. I use Splenda in tea and in recipes in place of sugar. Some of my friends don’t like artificial sweeteners. Some of them just don’t like the taste, which is alright. Others are worried it causes nameless bad health affects because it’s an artificial chemical. It’s hard to know how to respond to them. No matter what I say my friends can always invoke the illogical but infuriatingly irrefutable argument, “Well, you never know.” So, I have decided to do some research on the Splenda hysteria.
I Googled Splenda and got a bunch of websites claiming Splenda will give you everything from cancer to vague muscle pains. They invoke words like toxins and unnatural and try to get you angry that they are putting chemicals in your food (What does that even mean anyway? Everything is a chemical). All this fear mongering is usually accompanied by no scientific data. If there is it is usually one, small, preliminary study. They will act as if it is the definitive word that proves everything they’ve been saying all along.
The National Cancer Institute says there is no established link between any artificial sweetener and cancer in humans. From reading their website I found that early animal studies often showed a link between artificial sweeteners but when done with humans it doesn’t transfer. For instance studies in the 1970′s linked Saccherin with the development of bladder cancer in lab rats. But later studies showed no such link in humans. Further more other studies of FDA approved sweeteners have shown no evidence of cancer in humans.
Of coarse none of this matters to all the internet bloggers that make vague health claims and talk of research that they never allow you to lay your finger on. The bottom line with these guys is they don’t care about science. Sure, they’ll use it when it supports them but the dozens of studies that cast doubt on there claims get ignored . If they were really so keen on truth as they claim they wouldn’t hideously misrepresent the research.
The trouble is, even though the science is completely against it, the Splenda scare tactics are very compelling. Fear is one of the best motivates. It can make people believe insane things and commit atrocities all in the name of self defense. But we are not helpless to fear. As skeptics we overcome irrational fear everyday; fear of the government; fear of doctors; fear of chemicals. The best thing we can do is plant seeds of rationality in our friends and family. That is all I can do for my friends. They won’t believe me right away but I will just have to keep plugging away with things like: “If Splenda was proven to cause cancer why would it still be on the market?” and “Why would the government want to kill you? That would be one less person to pay taxes.”