SciBabe, paid by Splenda, touts its product

Yvette d’Entremont writes about popular science, especially consumer scams and misconceptions, on her website SciBabe. Her site’s bio notes that she has bachelor’s degrees in theater and chemistry from Emanuel College in Boston, a masters degree in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and worked eight years as an analytical chemist.  Most of her stuff appears to be good and constitutes worthy debunking of fads of issues like the supposed “dangers” of GM food and the touted benefits of jade vagina eggs.  A few years ago I wrote a controversial post criticizing her and other women’s use of sex to sell science, concluding that the advantages of popularizing science were offset by the use of female pulchritude and dirty jokes, which, to me, seemed to contribute to the objectification of women. As I recall, d’Entremont responded sharply to what I said, and possibly will to this post as well.

I note all this here because I’m not on a vendetta against d’Entremont, but  want to criticize another aspect of her blogging in this post, one that I see an unalloyed problem: her writing of science posts showing that a product is safe to use at the same time she’s being paid and sponsored by the company who makes that product. I’m referring to Splenda, an artificial sweetener that I myself use when trying to lose weight. Splenda is largely sucralose, a sugar substitute that isn’t broken down and metabolized by the body, so it contributes fewer calories than sugar. Because of added “bulking agents”, a packet of Splenda actually has 3.4 calories, or 31% of the calories of a single packet of sugar, which itself has 10.8 calories). But the fact that there are fewer than 5 calories per “serving” of Splenda means it can legally be labeled as “zero calories”. (I’d prefer that it be labelled more honestly: something like “69% fewer calories than sugar.”)

Splenda also appears to not cause dental caries or have any injurious effects on diabetics.  I like it because it tastes pretty close to sugar and because research shows that it’s safe, but it wasn’t until today that I found out it’s not really a “zero” calorie product”. At any rate, I was reading one of d’Entremont’s posts on Splenda (she has at least two, here and here, both of which tout the product’s safety), and saw the the following:

So let’s talk about it. I’ve partnered with Splenda to try to combat some of the more pervasive myths about low calorie sweeteners like sucralose that I see every day on social media. And I see them on my timeline or in my inbox every day. Are they causing weight gain? Are they causing stomach pains?

Are they safe?

Aware of how this “partnering” looks, she uses some of her trademarked snark to defuse the issue:

. . . Before every single shill accusation shows up, yes, let’s just get this out of the way. Indeed, I’m working with Splenda and these are all things I never would have said otherwise. I’m kicking my heels up on a desk made of fossilized unicorns wearing a coat made of Dalmatians, sipping a martini made from the tears of my enemies. Specifically Gwyneth Paltrow…. Wait, we collected that fluid from a jade egg, you say? Goddamnit.

…Or more accurately I really like Splenda because it’s safe for everyone, it bakes well (which is important for someone like me who loves to bake), and if this is something that you like the taste of in your diet, you deserve to understand why the science says it’s safe.

There’s a bit of error in her characterization of the product’s “zero calorie” reputation, though:

The amount of calories in a daily iced coffee I would have needed for how sweet I like my coffee? 60 (four raw sugar packets). For the record, I now take mine with three Splenda and one raw sugar – just 15 calories, if it’s a day when I skip the cream,

Well, no, for that implies there truly are no calories in Splenda, so that she can claim that a single packet of raw sugar plus three of Splenda has exactly one-fourth the calories of four raw sugar packets. In fact, it has 25.2 calories (15 + 3 X [3.4]), or 68% more calories than she represents. She concludes:

Or more accurately I really like Splenda because it’s safe for everyone, it bakes well (which is important for someone like me who loves to bake), and if this is something that you like the taste of in your diet, you deserve to understand why the science says it’s safe. Over the coming months, I want to address all the questions and concerns that people have had about Splenda and low calorie sweeteners in general. It’s a field where chemiphobia has run rampant, leading to incorrect assumptions about diets, calories, and health.

So have you heard some crazy things on the internet about Splenda? Comment. Email. Ask, but don’t let it go unchecked without asking, and I will do my damndest to answer with evidence.  I’m not going to find any random paper to support my positions. I’ll hunt for quality evidence and papers that come from the most reputable resources possible. I wouldn’t expect you to trust your health to anything less.

Her sponsorship is noted by the product’s own publicity blog, Splenda living:

Working with two content creators – Yvette d’Entremont, a scientist also known as SciBabe and the parody ecard platform Someecards, we at SPLENDA® Brand will be introducing digital and social content with one goal: to empower fans of the SPLENDA® Brand to take an active role in busting myths about sucralose. We also created a unique hashtag to help you identify this content on social media: #DebunktheJunk. The content will be available beginning today at www.Someecards.com/Splenda and on SciBabe.com/debunkthejunk It will continue to be released in the months to come so be sure to stay tuned for additional information and resources that help you debunk junk science!

These content partners were specifically selected because they have expertise in translating what can often be complicated concepts into understandable, relatable terms, and they are supporters of the brand’s passion for discerning good science from junk science. Additionally, they are SPLENDA® Brand fans.

So we have someone who’s paid by the makers of a product telling us good things about the product.  To me, this represents a perceived conflict of interest that should not exist in a science popularizer.

Now note that I am not accusing d’Entremont of distorting the science about Splenda because she’s sponsored by the product. In fact, I don’t think that’s the case. Although there appears to be an error in the product’s favor in her calculations, I think that comes simply from her accepting its characterization a “zero calorie” product.  As far as I know, d’Entremont has otherwise accurately represented the qualities and usefulness of the sweetener, and in both of her posts (the latest last November) she notes that she’s sponsored by Splenda. She’s also written other posts and articles defending the safety of non-Splenda sweeteners.

To my mind, it’s simply not good for one’s reputation as an objective science popularizer to create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Would I take money from Splenda and at the same time write articles telling everyone how safe it was, even if I believed it? Nope—not a chance. d’Entremont, if she responds to this, will undoubtedly say that she believes in Splenda, and that their sponsorship doesn’t have an iota of influence on what she says or the topics she writes about. And that may be true. But there is a reason why politicians and the like are supposed put their financial investments in a blind trust when in office—to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest. When people like Hillary Clinton take money for their foundation from foreign donors while they’re in government, that’s a problem, but of course they always say, like everyone who takes dough and then does something to help the donor, “I was not influenced by the money.”

Sometimes that’s true, but it’s best to avoid the problem entirely by not creating the appearance of a conflict. In the case of d’Entremont, I’d recommend that she either ditch the Splenda sponsorship or stop writing about it. (For the good of the public, I’d recommend she do the former. For her own financial good, perhaps the latter is preferable.) I realize that science popularizers have a tough time making a buck unless they’re someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson, but one’s reputation for objectivity seems to me too precious to sully with the appearance of a conflict like this one.

Finally, I’d recommend reading her articles in general, especially if you’re interested in product scams and popular misconceptions about products. She has a recent piece in Cosmopolitan on the stupidity of colon “cleanses” and “juicing” that should be read by the large number of people who practice this worthless cleansing in the hopes it will “detox” them.

97 Comments

  1. Martin X
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    The magazine “Cooks Illustrated” also takes issue with the idea that Splenda “bakes well”. Their experiments shows that it does not.

    My observation is that those who are happy with “healthy” substitutes in baking usually have low standards. Use real butter, real sugar, and real eggs.

    • Michael
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      I use Splenda in a couple of quick-bread recipes to reduce our sugar consumption, and we are satisfied with the results. I continue to use real butter and real eggs.

  2. Janet
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    There is some evidence that artificial sweeteners can induce glucose intolerance by altering gut microflora –
    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature13793
    This is, as it should be, still controversial. However, after doing research into artificial sweeteners a few years ago I stopped using them cold turkey (I had been a 6 diet drink a day gal).

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I rarely use artificially sweetened drinks, foods etc. I used to, and had no problems, and I considered the negative stuff much like the anti-GM mania. Now, they have an extremely negative effect on my body. My physical tolerance for them continues to reduce and I can have less and less before the negative effects kick in. I don’t know whether that’s the products or just me.

      • bric
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        The BBC Inside Science podcast this week has an item on trehalose that may help explain what has been happening
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09k0nkf

        I suffered a lot with IBS, but since retiring and almost entirely giving up processed food it has almost entirely gone away. Of course there are many possible explanations, but this research is interesting

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          Thanks. I’ll check it out.

  3. yazikus
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Here is what don’t understand… and humor me, if you will. Why do people need things like Splenda? Black coffee is great. Tea without sweetener is great too. And bread? We should probably just eat less of it, no? What is the appeal of these products?

    • Craw
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Might as well ask why we have decaf. Plus not every is good unsweetened. Try eating unsweetened cranberry or rhubarb.

      • yazikus
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        But decaf doesn’t add unnecessary calories to your diet. And cranberries and rhubarb are seasonal dishes that people don’t eat often, so the sugar needed to make them palatable isn’t a daily intake thing.

        • grasshopper
          Posted January 6, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

          What used to be seasonal is always available at your local supermarket, 24/7, courtesy of international trade and transport.
          I find it interesting that conserves/preserves/jams were originally made to preserve fruit grown in times of plenty, the sugar serving to inhibit mould and bacterial growth. Can you preserver fruit with Splenda?

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

            Can you preserver fruit with Splenda?

            That would probably depend on the osmolytic pressure of the “bulking agents”, in the quantities used. OTOH, using non-digestible oligosaccharides is probably how things like “diabetic jam” are made. If it were 3 days ago and I were still at chez parents, I’d report on what their jam pots contain, but I’m not. Since I’m several decades up the road from them in diabetes risk, on the uncommon occasions that I use preserves (around a half kilo/year – I have to keep it in the fridge, or scrape the mould off), I just buy regular stuff, as it’s not a major contributor to my glucose loading.

            • grasshopper
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:16 am | Permalink

              Sugars can make you fart.
              The reason beans are soaked before cooking is to leach out the raffinose sugar, a tri-saccharide which our guts cannot handle, hence the fart jokes associated with beans.
              I keep a pair of rainbow lorikeets which are a nectar-feeding parrot, and make up my own food for them. I include chickpea flour in their diet for a couple of reasons. One reason is that it is high in protein, and the other is that chickpeas contain raffinose sugar which helps their gut flora.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

                Sugars can make you fart.

                So you fart. Everyone does. I believe the average is 17 times per day (I think I read it on one of those “joke” toilet rolls you get from time to time.) I’ve never understood why people get embarrassed about it.

    • James Walker
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      People want to have their cake and eat it too? 😉

      Seriously, I assume it’s because people have become addicted/accustomed to the taste of sugar but don’t want to deal with the health consequences of that addiction.

      • yazikus
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        I suppose I might be lucky in that I have far more of a ‘salty-tooth’ than a sweet-tooth. I’m not big on sweets, but I think this is also in part of just not eating them. I think sugar in high quantities is an acquired taste. If I do happen to eat a piece of candy, I hate the way it makes my teeth feel, I dislike how it makes me feel in general and usually end up regretting eating it.

      • Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        You might contemplate that our liking for sweet things is to some extent hard-wired, having evolved at a time when sweet things were far rarer and a good addition to the diet.

        • yazikus
          Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps I’m faulty 😉 I always knew there was something off with my irrational dislike for honey. I should like it, and yet I don’t!

        • Posted January 30, 2018 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          Everybody who has ever prepared baby food will agree with you! If liking sweet is an addiction, then humans are literally born addicted.

    • Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      We’re evolved to like sweets. That doesn’t mean that we should always have them, but I simply do not LIKE unsweetened coffee, though I can tolerate unsweetened tea with milk.

      What you’re asking is why people don’t have the same tastes as you do, and my answer is that they just don’t. The appeal is that they taste better. Do you understand now? Or am I supposed to keep trying to like coffee without sugar because you do?

      • yazikus
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        I do- and I should have worded my query better, I did not mean to come of sounding condescending, by any means.
        I’m always intrigued by strongly held preferences for condiments, so this shouldn’t be s surprise to me. That said,

        The appeal is that they taste better.

        I would say it certainly makes things taste sweeter, though not necessarily better.

        • Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

          To ME it makes them taste better. You still don’t seem to understand that you can’t force everybody to conform to your particular tastes. I can’t stand cilantro and I don’t like cauliflower; am I SUPPOSED to like them?

          I LIKE coffee tasting sweet. Period.

          • yazikus
            Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

            Duly noted. No desire here to force anyone to conform to my tastes.

          • nicky
            Posted January 9, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

            Apparently the distaste for cilantro/koriander is completely genetic. just one gene. I’m not 100% sure it is true though.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t find your question condescending; on the contrary, I share your curiosity. It baffles me why people order soda pop to accompany good food. Yes, we evolved to like sweets, and I enjoy dessert as much as the next guy, but needing a hit of sweetness to wash down every savory bite just doesn’t compute for me.

          I think you’re right that evolved preferences are probably not the whole story, and that a lifelong habit of consuming sweet drinks may also play a role in determining people’s tastes.

          • Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

            Sometimes sweet drinks enhance food. This has long been recognized for sweet wines like Sauternes, which are often served in France to go with foie gras as a classic first course. And believe me, it’s a fantastic combination. Southerners like their BBQ with sweetened ice tea, and I agree with them. And a coke with a burger and fries is a another classic combination.

            I don’t know how to explain it other than by saying that many people like such combinations, that taste is subjective, and it’s not immoral or anything to have such tastes. If you’re still baffled, I don’t know what to say.

            I am baffled that other people are baffled, since taste is subjective and, as we’ve learned repeatedly on this site, some people can’t stand what other people love and vice versa.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              All this can be summed up in one succinct, and here, ineluctably literal maxim: “De gustibus non est disputandum”.

              • Posted January 6, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

                … and my preference for sweetness in certain foods, drinks, has waned as i age.
                Not uncommon i believe and interesting as to why.
                In very hot conditions i like my beer bitter as ‘sweetish’ beers does not cut it, all in my head of course.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:10 am | Permalink

                Who that? It has the taste of lawyerliness, so Cicero?

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              I don’t dispute that there are specific pairings that work well, though I’d be inclined to put coke with burger and fries in the category of successful marketing campaign rather than classic combination. Give me a good beer with my burger.

              My bafflement is more with people who apparently consider coke the appropriate pairing for everything. I like chocolate, but I wouldn’t put it on everything.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:12 am | Permalink

                I like chocolate, but I wouldn’t put it on everything.

                Honeyed locusts rather than chocolate dipped ones for next New Year?

            • dabertini
              Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

              Is there not a selective advantage to having sweet taste receptors?

          • Martin X
            Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            “It baffles me why people order soda pop to accompany good food.”

            Part of the pleasure of eating for me is contrast…I take a single bite of everything in order until something is gone, then I quit. A sweet drink is a wonderful contrast to savory foods, and if I run out, I stop eating. Water, as the primary beverage, would ruin the meal for me.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted January 6, 2018 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

              I accept your description of your experience, but I’m afraid it leaves me even more baffled, since I’m unable to imagine how an otherwise delicious meal could be rendered inedible by lack of a coke to go with it.

      • nicky
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Sugary taste, as salty taste, is subject to a kind of habituation, I think.
        I experimented this, because of a comment when I put just a pinch of sugar in my coffee. It was said that with so little sugar, I could not taste the difference, and might just as well put no sugar at all.
        So at work, during lunchtime, we did the experiment (no claims of scientific rigour, just for fun). Those who normally did not put sugar in their coffee and those (me) who only put a pinch could easily tell the difference between a pinch or none at all, but those who were used to put 2-3 spoons of sugar in their coffee could not.
        Look, I’m not one to say you should not use sugar (unless diabetic) or sugar replacement products. I just want to say that if one progressively reduces one’s sugar consumption (as I did), one gets much more sensitive to the taste.
        Same goes for salt.

        • Josh Lincoln
          Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Similarly, I think that one can change their tastes over time. I used to routinely drink a combination of orange juice cranberry juice and water. I did not particularly like drinking plain water. However for the last 20 years or so after switching to plain water I greatly prefer it and rarely if ever (except for a morning coffee) drink anything else. I now find juices or sodas much too sweet for my liking (even though I did prefer them quite a bit).

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:18 am | Permalink

          I just want to say that if one progressively reduces one’s sugar consumption (as I did), one gets much more sensitive to the taste.
          Same goes for salt.

          I knew a hippy – New Age Traveller – some years ago, who claimed that he had given up both a heroin habit and salt in times past, and found giving up the salt to have been harder than giving up the smack. I never questioned him closely on the claim – not polite in someone’s bender – but it’s not impossible.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      As Jerry emphasises, it’s all a matter of individual taste; and no wider inferences, positive or negative, should be drawn from that fact.

      Having said that, I agree with you. For me, tea and coffee just are bitter drinks, and I drink them in part because I like that taste. If I want a sweet drink (which is not often), I would probably have an orange juice. I would no more think of adding sugar to tea or coffee than to beer.

      But it would be a very dull world if we all had exactly the same tastes.

    • Posted January 15, 2018 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      Black coffee with sugar in it is still black. In fact many Italians will drink espresso with a lot of sugar. Personally I take no sugar in either tea or coffee, but I wouldn’t dream of telling somebody they were wrong just because they have different tastes to me.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    On the one hand, there’s something commendable about disclosing conflict of interest.

    On the other hand, conflict of interest often affects people in ways they are not aware. And conflict of interest that involves being paid is always more serious. Then the questions become: how well is she sourcing her claims, and is she omitting any counter-evidence? And is she engaging in direct advertising? (I would say yes, since she doesn’t evaluate other sugar substitutes.)

    Perhaps she should let a guest editor contribute on this subject. And a better venue for her plugs might be a general science publication than a personal blog!!

  5. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I’d recommend that she either ditch the Splenda sponsorship or stop writing about it.

    Writing about it is what they’re paying her to do. I don’t see how keeping the sponsorship without writing about it is a viable option.

    • Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      There are people who sponsor websites without requiring that the website write about their product! They are just looking for the visibility.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        That’s not what the blurb you quoted says. It says they expect her to “take an active role in busting myths about sucralose”.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:26 am | Permalink

      Quoth Dr Johnson “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
      (Dated April 5, 1776, p. 302, Vol 3 of the “Life”)

      • Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        I sincerely hope you (or Dr Johnson) are not suggesting that our host is a blockhead 😉

  6. Laurance
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one who finds that Splenda has an unpleasant aftertaste? I don’t like the stuph! I take a bite of food and there’s an icky aftertaste that’s troublesome enough for me to not bother to eat the food in the first place. Am I alone in this?

    • nicky
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      I do not know Splenda, but I find most ‘artificial’ or ‘alternative’ sweeteners have a nasty aftertaste. No, you’re not alone!

      • Blue
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        I do as well, Mr nicky / Mr Laurance.
        Including with sucralose bases.

        Must be in beings of certain genes likely ?

        Blue

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:28 am | Permalink

        What is your natural source of pure glucose?

        • nicky
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:12 am | Permalink

          My usual source of ‘sweet’ is sucrose (the disaccharide of glucose & fructose), either from beets or cane, aka. known as ‘sugar’. I do not think I usually partake of “pure glucose”. How so?

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

            Mental hiccough. What is your natural source of pure sucrose? As opposed to sucrose dispersed in large amounts of indigestible plant matter.

            • nicky
              Posted January 9, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

              As said, the refined sucrose from beets or cane is my main source of ‘sweet’. I’m not a great fruit eater, although I do highly appreciate some fruit on occasion.
              I’m still not sure what you are getting at.

            • Posted January 30, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

              Honey is not pure sucrose, but is mostly sucrose and glucose and fructose not dispersed in indigestible fiber.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    To me, this represents a perceived conflict of interest …

    It’s more than a perceived conflict of interest; it’s an actual conflict of interest. A judge would certainly be prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct from presiding over a case involving a party from whom she or he was deriving a financial benefit.

    That doesn’t mean that d’Entremont’s statements about Splenda are inaccurate, or even otherwise tainted by her clear conflict of interest. But I question the propriety of her touting the product in any fora other than as a paid company spokesperson.

    • Posted January 8, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I think this illustrates an interesting point. Like many fields, law has technical terms that are homophonous to their ordinary language counterparts. “Conflict of interest” may well be one of these.

  8. lkr
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    For my morning coffee at home, I never use cream or sugar. In restaurants, I usually order cream, but add it only if my first sip shows the coffee is over-bitter or simply held too long.

    At gas stops, I automatically add sugar and cream — coffee is guaranteed to be nasty.

    • Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      Something has always puzzled me – do USians actually put cream in their coffee, when the rest of us add milk, or is it just that “cream” means “milk” in the US? If the latter, why?

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Some of us drink our coffee black. But typically what you find in the creamer in good coffee shops is light cream or half-and-half, i.e. higher in fat content than whole milk but lower than whipping cream. Milk is used primarily in espresso drinks, not brewed coffee.

        • Posted January 8, 2018 at 4:53 am | Permalink

          Thanks, Gregory. possibly what I would call single cream (as opposed to double cream).

      • Posted January 8, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        I’m no coffee drinker, but I’ve seen 10% milk fat items for coffee use some places. Is that cream?

  9. TreeRooster
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I was recently debating this with family, so would like to keep up with the latest science. The article Dr. Coyne linked, (Magnuson et.al. critical review of studies in Food and Toxicology from August 2017), does not mention the somewhat scary article about diet soft drinks and dementia in Stroke of May 2017 (Pase et.al.)

    The latter is the one that found correlation between diet drink consumption and dementia in a 10-year study. No causation implied, of course, and probably not involving much sucralose anyhow (the drinks usually have aspartame). For instance it could be muddied by the fact that lots of diabetics (or with family diabetic history) consume those drinks.

    So, I’d be interested in recent developments, and for that purpose SciBabe’s blog might be a good source of citations. However, the sponsorship definitely detracts from the confidence one might have in its objectivity.

  10. rickflick
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    It’s disheartening to see SciBabe go commercial. It’s almost as bad as when Dr. Oz started cashing in promoting useless nutritional supplements. Who will be our hero now?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      A DR. JEN GUNTER should be your new ‘hero’ – take a tour of her blog & see if it fits! You’ll note you can sub via RSS, email or that Twitter thing they have now.

      She writes better than SciBabe, she’s a Canadian OB/GYN now living in the USA AND she has a one-eyed cat, Luna. Jerry mentioned her middle of last year with reference to her thorough roasting of charlatan Gwyneth Paltrow

      • rickflick
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        She looks authentic.

      • Travis
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        I only recall looking at a few things she’s said in the past but I thought she was a bit overly paranoid. Probably due to ignorance.

        • Travis
          Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

          The more I look at the more I don’t like.

          Notice the hyper focus on the male brain as an issue and only when it affects women.

          • nicky
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:19 am | Permalink

            I don’t mind her ‘male brain’, but I think she’s mistaken if she thinks male brains are specifically geared to be violent towards women.
            When males are violent towards women it is either as an instrument to perpetrate a rape, or frustration in losing arguments (or the like). I think that would cover most of it.

            • Travis
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

              Even with domestic abuse it is not only reciprocal (mostly even numbers of male and female perpetrators and victims) the major reason for doing so is to exert control.

              I’m not sure she thinks that male brains are specifically geared to be violent towards women but she does focus exclusively on that (why not violence in general? Why male perpetrators only?). It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

              I’m sure it would also bother people if someone said that the one thing they would change biologically is the female brain and its propensity to leading mothers to kill their children.

            • nicky
              Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

              Comments are ‘dead now’, but I just realise that I forgot the most important one: sexual jealousy (whether ‘justified’ or not).

          • Simon
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 6:58 am | Permalink

            The food babe also has a bit of form. She markets herself as the ‘Food Babe’, yet threw a hissy fit when a conference billed her using that title. She wanted to know why everyone else was known by there names. The answer is obvious and innocuous.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 2:22 am | Permalink

          She replied “Yup” in a retweet on Twitter to another woman who posted this:

          Ask women how often they walk to their cars with the sharp end of their key strategically pointing out between their knuckles.

          I note a fair amount of agreement from the females in the thread.

          You, Travis suggesting she’s “…a bit overly paranoid. Probably due to ignorance” , gives me this feeling you’ll roll out some stats [if challenged], on male rape & how safe women are on the streets. Then there’ll be a little chat about the relative merits of the Cologne New Years streets, NYC & so on. Not interested mate – nobody changes their minds in these discussions.

          I am going to go ahead & say now that women feeling uneasy walking on the streets, or on the way to their cars in multi-storey car parks – I am not in the least bit surprised. I have noticed a lot of women carry huge bunches of keys & I’ve often wondered how much of that is due to practical need; how much due to having handbags that can carry keys & how much as a security measure.

          • bric
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:19 am | Permalink

            I commend to you Jo Brand taking the (all male) cast of Have I got News For You to task for not taking this seriously

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:31 am | Permalink

              Thank you Bric. I was unaware of that, but I found it on YouTube. Jo Brand keepin’ it real: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1CKw5YNhO4

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

              Oh – I didn’t see you’ve put up a vid too – a better version! I was reading & replying in my email alerts which only displays the text.

          • Draken
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

            Hands up all men who look over their shoulder in a multi-storey car park.

            *sticks up*

            • Travis
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

              There you have it. Proof that this is a major problem for men.

              Or at least that’s how the logic goes with women who have fears.

          • Travis
            Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

            1) Random acts of violence like this are rare, especially for female victims. Most rape or abuse occurs between people who know each other, and this applies to both sexes.

            2) I’m aware that many women have this fear. I’m not really surprised at all, except when it comes to well-educated people. I think it is paranoid and not well-evidenced. Since men are much more likely the victim of violence in general, and stranger violence in particular, it would make more sense for men to be afraid like this (And some are – I myself was a victim of this in high school on one of the busiest streets in my city in broad daylight), and yet men aren’t afraid of this, and everyone is taught that women are so much more vulnerable in these positions and their fear itself is used as evidence of an epidemic of violence against them. No, it is actually evidence of a vast paranoia.

            • Travis
              Posted January 7, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

              All that said I don’t want to complain too hard. She seems like she’s a decent pro-real-medicine activist. I personally haven’t been interested too much on the topic of medicine for a year or so… I just remembered I should be checking out NaturopathicDiaries for new articles.

            • Posted January 30, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

              I have read recommendation by security experts to people of both sexes to bring out their keys before they reach the door and to hold them this way. In a big city, I do not find it paranoid.

              Among people I know, far more women have been robbed than men. My explanation: they are more likely than men to walk or use public transportation, they are targeted because are perceived as weaker, and they usually keep their possessions in a handbag while men prefer the inner pockets of their suits.

  11. Christopher
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I whole-heartedly agree with the potential for appearing as if a conflict of interest may be tainting the message of any science writer or reporter. Best be on the safe side.
    As for Splenda itself,unless they want to send some dish my way… I can’t stand sugar substitutes and along with the Cosmo butt-cleansing article, I won’t be hosing out my arse with coffee or green juices either. In fact, it’s about time to “tox” my body and butt with some Chicago style pizza and a couple of bottles of stout. Cheers!

  12. Alpha Neil
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    “I’m the secretary of state. Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.
    Why do you keep saying that?
    Cause they pay me every time I do. It’s a really good way to make money.”

    From the movie Idiocracy

  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Just saying I like mine with sugar or I like mine without is kind of a wasted exercise. Unless some one asked you how you like it just keep it to yourself.

  14. steve oberski
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    By a strange coincidence, on today’s episode of “Quirks & Quarks” on CBC hosted by Bob McDonald (by the way this is what responsible science journalism looks like):

    Rise of C. difficile outbreaks

    A common sugar additive in food may fuel deadlier outbreaks of a superbug in hospitals, researchers say.

    Clostridium difficile can cause a serious bacterial infection that can rampage through hospitals and lead to severe diarrhea and death. The bowel bug is the most common cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

    After 2000, epidemic strains unexpectedly took off in Canada, the United States and Europe and deaths increased dramatically. Why it became so common and severe so quickly had scientists stumped.

    This week, American, British and Dutch researchers said they found a new reason to consider: changes in our food supply.

    The findings suggest that when the food industry widely adopted the sugar, called trehalose, into food manufacturing, it played a major role in the emergence of super-strong strains of C. difficile.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:37 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I was thinking about that news item too (I heard it on the radio, but didn’t hear the source’s name). My source went into a little more detail that at the levels of trehalose found in the gut of a consumer of products that use it (quite a few ; I didn’t memorise the list given), it only provided a few percent of the gut carbohydrates, but that two different strains of C.diff could digest it whereas other components of the gut microflora couldn’t. That few percent seems enough of a selection advantage to have encouraged the rise of the problematic strains.
      If I understood the programme correctly.
      Interesting, and somewhat disturbing, idea.

      • steve oberski
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 4:15 am | Permalink

        This shows that SciBabes claim:

        Or more accurately I really like Splenda because it’s safe for everyone,

        is at best willfully ignorant or at worst malicious based on her conflict of interest with Splenda.

        As a science journalist she must know that you can’t make absolute claims like this as the new data for trehalose shows.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          It’s a pretty unwise claim to make without a lot of evidence – which is bad journalism, science or otherwise.
          To be honest, I still don’t know if sucralose is bulked with trehalose or foamed baby heads – I’ve always avoided the “bulked out” sweeteners since I dumped sugar in the early 1990s because whats the point of the bulking. If you can’t RTFP (Friendly Packaging) and work out the appropriate dosing in your head, then you probably ought to be in supervised housing.
          The question of whether “bulking agents” might be physiologically active is one that didn’t occur to me with respect to pseudo-sugars. Though I do recall thinking about it the last (or last but one) time someone was marketing “dehydrated alcohol” – which is alcohol soaked into a dextrose sugar IIRC.

      • bric
        Posted January 7, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        That sounds like the edition of Inside SCience I mentioned above

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09k0nkf

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 7, 2018 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

          Thursday the 4th’s edition? Yeah, I recorded it off broadcast, but watched it some time on Friday.

  15. Joseph O'Sullivan
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    It would have best for her not to have become a paid spokesman for splenda. One of the reasons science works is its emphasis on objectivity. Her critics now have ammunition to question her objectivity and cast doubt on her science writings. It is not that she isn’t any less objective, it’s that she can appear to be so. I have a science undergrad degree but later went to law school. In the legal system, the ethics are often based on a standard where there is an appearance of impropriety, acknowledging the unfortunate fact that sometimes impressions can be more influential than facts.

    I’m not sure if she should now stop taking money from splenda. She now has the reputation of industry-paid representative, and it might be too late to change that. There are also the financial realities of trying to make a living as a scientist. The main reason I didn’t pursue science was I wanted more career security, so I sympathize with her on that.

  16. Travis
    Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I agree with your criticisms regarding the sponsorship, and disagree with your criticism regarding the sex appeal. (I skimmed some of the comments on that post, too, to get a couple of opinions)

  17. grasshopper
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    Cats, apparently, are the only mammal that cannot taste sweet things. It seems that they cannot be indifferent to it, or even dislike it. The sweetness of things can never even impinge upon their consciousness.

  18. James Walker
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    We’ve evolved to like sweet things but that’s when sweet things were scarce. There’s also a certain amount of cultural variability about how much sweetness is expected or required.

  19. grasshopper
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Forgot the link.
    Here ’tis.
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-cats-cannot-taste-sweets/

  20. boggy
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Here are two other plant-based edulcorants
    (sweeteners).
    Xylitol derived from birch sap which has the remarkable effect of curing early carious lesions.
    Stevia which I grew once and has a very sweet taste but a liquorice after-taste.
    Since being diagnosed T2 diabetic I have almost eliminated sugar from my diet and find sweet foods repellent.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 7, 2018 at 3:57 am | Permalink

      I haven’t had sugar in hot beverages since age 12yo – dunno why I made that decision. Within five years I’d stopped fizzy drinks, doughnuts etc because they seemed sickeningly sweet. When later I cooked for myself I began to notice how over-sweet most packaged foods are [sausages, baked beans, ketchups] & started to give them a miss. I enjoy the buzz I get off the very occasional nibble of dark chocolate – [Lindt 85% my fave] & that’s about it for processed sugar.

      Don’t miss added sugar at all

      Breaking Bad factoid: Walter White knocked off Lydia Rodarte-Quayle with a ricin-adulteratated packet of Stevia, in her camomile tea at the Grove Café, Albuquerque.

  21. Posted January 7, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    You might as well as why a nutrition literate is still talking about calories. The calorie theories of diet have been debunked quite some time ago. (Read “Good Calories, bad Calories” for the details.)

    And, excuse me, partnering? You cannot claim to be unbiased when those paying your salary are.

  22. Posted January 7, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    She had me at “… these are all things I never would have said otherwise”. Sounds like a BS way to say “Don’t believe any of this crap. I did it for the money. A gal’s got to eat, right?”

    On the one hand, she did tell her readers that she’s being paid, albeit with weasel words. On the other hand, why take advice from someone with a pecuniary interest in the issue?


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