Finally, summer is starting to get here. After an exceptionally long winter and a cold, overcast spring, the first few rays of sunshine have decided to peek through. Nearing the end of classes, the previously damp, empty greens are covered with sundress-wearing girls and Frisbee-playing boys. Everyone’s mood is better. It was, in fact, nearly 80 degrees the other day–a very welcome change for the inhabitants of Boston.
As I put cream and cinnamon in my iced coffee, I saw one of my friends, who is usually a cream-no-sugar kind of gal, reaching for the sugar. “What are you doing?” I asked, confused by her choice. “I don’t know. I always want sugar in my iced coffee. It seems like it should be sweet,” was her response. This was something I had never considered. Do people like sugar in their iced beverages more so than in their hot beverages? Well, looking at the quickly emptying sugar tray, I deemed the answer to be “yes.”
Not only do people tend to put a lot more sugar in their iced drinks, but it seems that a lot more people put in sugar alternatives than real sugar. There was a tray for Sweet ’N Low, Equal, Domino’s sugar, and Sugar in the Raw. Of these, Equal and Sweet ’N Low were relatively empty, then Domino’s sugar, and Sugar in the Raw was almost completely untouched.
Now, as I watched a girl pouring three little packets of Sweet ’N Low into her iced coffee, it shocked me that people would choose these artificial sweeteners over the real thing. Have they not heard all of the terrible things about fake sugar? Or do they just not care?
Well let’s take a look at these two substitutes. Equal is made with aspartame, and Sweet’N Low is made with saccharin. There is “limited evidence” linking saccharin to cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental toxicity, and organ system toxicity. However, more and more animal studies are showing that saccharin, thought to be a safer substitute to aspartame, may cause bladder cancer in later life. Though taken off the FDA’s list of carcinogens after saccharin’s 125th year in existence, most other countries still ban the sweetener as a hazard to human health. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to take the risk.
So, if saccharin is the “safe” sweetener, what about aspartame? Though it is also not banned by the FDA, aspartame is linked to severe problems later in life, including neurological disorders and brain tumors. Past animal studies have shown that it takes a surprisingly little amount of aspartame per day to eventually lead to cancer. Newer studies are suggesting that, if exposed to aspartame prenatally, the likelihood of contracting lymphomas and/or leukemias increased significantly. Because the majority of people that consume aspartame daily are women of child-bearing age, this study suggests that serious precautions should be taken in regards to the marketing of aspartame.
And yet, despite these new, telling studies, the FDA still allows aspartame on the market and insists on its safety. Their argument is that they have conducted studies in which cancer was not found to be a direct cause of aspartame, and so they feel that this counter-study does not carry much weight. If the FDA is unwilling to consider new information about the safety of these artificial sweeteners, I can’t say that I fully trust their incomplete judgment. That’s my opinion, so I’m going to stay away from them as long as there are legitimate studies telling me that they are dangerous.
Anyway, I like raw sugar better. I grew up using Sucanat rather than processed sugar, and it’s just as good and tastes much more real. When, on occasion, I do choose to sweeten my iced coffee, I use the Sugar in the Raw, which is unbleached and unprocessed. Though you may be getting some empty calories, you have to assume that that’s better than getting cancer.
Note to self: Anything with “artificial” in the title can’t be good for you. Go raw.