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Sweet Nothings and Bitter Realities

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WHEN people were asked to cut down on sugar, they were comforted by blind hopes in sugar substitutes. A round of swirling confusions and conflicting assertions regarding which one is the best went on. Every time they used a sachet they felt a bitter taste afterwards. Their sensory neurons affirmed it’s an imposter. They took their time adapting to this new taste. They protested, frowned, complained, and then one day gave in. After all, it was better than having no sweetness at all.

The marketers cashed on this discovery by advertising its “zero calorie” feature. It got the customers running to the stores. Dieting became easier for people. All they had to do was replace sugar with an artificial sweetener.

They could now have their sweet cravings without worrying about their waistline. Pink, yellow, blue packets were seen in coffee shops, restaurants, meetings and some carried them along wherever they went. Diet beverages, sugar-free foods soon found their space on shelves. People were baking goodies with this non-nutritive sugar substitute.

The discovery of this proxy is even more interesting. Like many other discoveries, a scientist came across it by an accident and not experiment.

Constantine Fahlberg, a German scientist was conducting a research on coal tar derivative products. He was so engrossed in his work that he missed his dinner. When hunger pangs struck, he rushed to eat something; forgetting to wash his hands. His dinner tasted sweet, the napkin was sweeter and the water was like syrup. He ascertained he had discovered some coal tar substance which out-sugared sugar.

He returned to his laboratory to work on its chemical composition, characteristics and reactions. He kept working for weeks and months. When people learned of this discovery, he was honored by mockery, skepticism and indifference.

However, when they first saw it publically, he became a celebrity overnight. He got sixty letters in a day; requests for samples, autographs, interviews, partnerships swarmed. He then started his own company and sold a pound of saccharin for $10 – 12.

Since then sugar substitutes have been found and sold under different brand names; each claiming to be better and safer than the other. In 1970s, saccharin was banned in US when bladder cancer was found in a laboratory rat. Although, twenty years later this ban was lifted, people were still reluctant to make saccharin their prime choice.

The formulations have been further worked on, tweaked and improved, yet time and again authorities and scientists conduct studies to unveil false claims of manufacturers. These substitutes have been accused of causing cancer, hair loss, depression, and many other disturbances in a human body.

Being a $1.5 billion industry in US alone, the manufacturers are equally aggressive and in action. They fund studies that discard concerns of side effects by terming them mere hearsays and myths. They even buy out Doctors and Dietitians to appear in advertisements holding a can of diet soda in their hands; claiming artificial sweeteners are absolutely safe. There are no side-effects unless you keep consuming them for several decades. And that’s how an innocent consumer is fooled.

Marketers are profiteers. The least of their concerns is consumers’ health. They want their products sold and their bank lockers stacked.

While profiteers and scientists fight among themselves and accuse one another of falsehood, as a consumer the responsibility comes down on you to research and study what’s best for you. Don’t blindly follow trends. Research and look up. Be your own sleuth. A certain level of skepticism should always be maintained. Results can vary from individual to individual. Do you know some reactions can take place due to genetic orders and allergies?

Amidst disagreements and controversial debates one must concede there is a certain daily intake limit for everything that one consumes.

If artificial sweeteners were really effective would you still be seeing people with bulging bellies and ever-expanding waistlines? There wouldn’t have been a single obese person. These sweet nothings provide little help to maintain an ideal weight. A healthy weight is maintained by balancing diet and lifestyle. You can’t hold diet soda in one hand and an up-sized cheese burger in the other. Some shuffling is required.

Sugar doesn’t provide any essential nutrients that your body must have every day. You are already consuming too much sugar even if you are skipping sodas, candy bars and confectionery. Sugar sneaks into your diet through fruits, cereals, dressings and sauces.

Can’t eliminate sugar from your diet? Cut down the consumption. You don’t need “something sweet” all the time. Make it an occasional thing. Eat to celebrate an achievement or during festivals. Dinner should not be followed up by a dessert every night. This way your health stays well and weight in check

.Still can’t live without sugar? Use natural alternatives such as cinnamon, dates, figs and honey. Not only will you be getting your sweet pleasures, but some essential nutrients as well. Happy living!


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