Artificial sweeteners may be deadly, but I don’t care

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As seen in the April 10 print edition

Zoe Kenealy, staff writer

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 12.38.59 PMAs a friend of mine sipped her Splenda-sweetened iced coffee, she researched the negative side effects that the small, pink, zero-calorie packet comes with. As she sipped, she read the long litany of symptoms that accompany sipping a beverage with a packet of Splenda, symptoms that range from severe depression to an increased level in hepatic enzymes. My friend, however, was unphased by these tallies and did not stop drinking until she read the last consequence at the end of the list. This side effect was beyond what anyone would wish for upon his or her worst enemy: weight gain.

The flawed logic behind my friend’s decision and those of millions of Americans can be linked to the fact that humans, as can be observed as early as in one’s infancy, inherently lack deferred gratification (the ability to resist temptation of instant gratification in order to ensure a future that promises greater rewards). Consequently, it is human nature to be on a constant prowl for shortcuts and “easy ways out.”

The demand for instant satisfaction serves as the grounds behind the startling success of fad diets, carcinogenic diet sodas and and “miracle” weight-loss pills. Attesting to this is the ever-popular Cabbage Soup Diet, wherein Cabbage-Soup dieters spend a week essentially drinking their body weight in vegetable broth. Clearly a rather unhealthful and temporary solution to body-image dissatisfaction, the Cabbage Soup Diet stands today as a popular option for dropping those last stubborn 10 pounds. Even with the knowledge we have of the miracle diet market products’ negative health effects, our lack of deferred gratification diminishes our ability to follow through with responsible decision making. We put millions of dollars into the pockets of industry heads who knowingly, and very discreetly, sell their cancer-causing “guilt-free” products.

The question we should ask, however, should be whether the miracle diet industry actually rakes in its profit discreetly, or if consumers are simply turning their hopeful heads in the direction of ignorant bliss. Similar to the case of my Splenda-sipping friend, the consumers of this industry will not stop sipping unless the consequences of fad diets, sweet chemicals and carbonated poison prove immediate. Our bodies are made to withstand years of mistreatment before giving out, and while this may be a literal lifesaver in many situations, it encourages the bad decisions that people choose to stop making only when the repercussions are tangible – perhaps in our kidneys, or in the 20 pounds to be gained after the first 10 pounds are unhealthily lost in a week’s time. The realness of the miracle diet industry products’ long-term health consequences should be taken into account as seriously as every Diet Coke consumer’s fear of extra calories is. However, naturally, it is easier to be instantly gratified and sip the non-caloric, carcinogenic beverage. Because who actually wants to drink a can of empty calories?

Cartoon by AJ Parry
Cartoon by AJ Parry

To conclude, I need to admit that as I write this on a relaxing Saturday morning at my favorite cafe, I am eating a bowl of oatmeal. My bowl of oatmeal includes almond milk, a selection of blackberries, blueberries and nuts and a very generous serving of Splenda. I also admit that while I sit here, aware of the depression I may undergo and the weakening of my liver to come, my biggest fear is the possible weight gain the Sucralose will bring my way. Because I, too, face the struggle of choosing between deferred and instant gratification, or in this case, deferred and instant consequence. The thought of my possible weight gain does make each bite of oatmeal a tad bitter, but I choose to turn my head because the bitterness may merely be the odd taste that these artificial sugar products come with.

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