This post isn’t an ode to Pawnee, Indianan’s favorite employer (Parks N Rec) or this muppet:

Muppet Wiki–Amazing, I learned that there’s a Muppet Wiki site and that this muppet’s name is Sweetums

Rather, it’s a few facts and figures from Choosing a Sugar Substitute:  Doubts by the Teaspoonful on nytimes.com.  I didn’t grow up drinking a lot of soda – we were allowed Sugar Free Kool-Aid as a treat.  I still remember how excited I’d get when we got to play at a neighbor’s house and drink “real” Kool-Aid – the green flavor that was made with scoops and scoops of sugar – so much that you could practically chew the last sips.

An even bigger treat?  My mom letting us have a sip or two of her Tab or Pepsi Lite

This is really old school soda (source)

The sweeteners of yesterday have grown to include sucralose (Splenda), stevia, asparatame, and are a $1.5 billion a year market.  

Sweeteners seem to be one of those “food” groups (the artificial sweeteners are all chemicals that react to tell the body ‘Sweet’) that are confusing – do they or don’t they cause cancer?  What happened to those rats used in the studies in the 1970s?  That’s when the Food and Drug Administration fought to ban saccharin because rats “gorged” on the sweetener developed bladder cancer.

Here’s some interesting (and possibly useful) information for people who like their artificial sweeteners:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, slaps an “avoid” label on saccharin and aspartame, but deems sucralose and neotame — a newer, more intense sweetener that is chemically similar to aspartame — to be safe. The center also warns against acesulfame potassium, a less common sweetener that is rarely found in tabletop packets but is combined with other sweeteners in soda and baked goods for a more sugarlike taste. Fresca, for example, is sweetened with acesulfame potassium and aspartame, as are Halls sugar-free cough drops.

That sneaky sweetener–it’s in so many products.  I picked up a jar of pickles at the grocery store and I’m glad I read the label–they were sweetened with Splenda.  I can go pickle-free on my burger, thank you very much.

For those who turn to stevia, a sweetener derived from a plant, the Center for Science in the Public Interest gives it a “caution,” because cancer studies were conducted in only one species of lab animals. (“Just because a substance is natural does not mean that it is safe,” the center’s Web site warns.)

The alternative is sugar.  And though it’s natural, it can make you fatter.

Research published last year that analyzed health data on more than 100,000 nurses in the United States over nearly a quarter-century found a strong correlation between weight gain and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts. There was no weight gain for those who drank beverages with artificial sweeteners.

Personally, I get headaches from eating/drinking anything with artificial sweetener.  A few years ago I was drinking a lot of those single drink packets of sugar-free iced tea and would leave work with a pounding headache.  I ditched the packets for naturally flavored sparkling water and tap water and I’m a happy, hydrated camper.

Not trying to be a buzz kill today–everything in moderation.

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