Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG
HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2007 > Article Detail

MARGINALIA

Legally Sweet

Conflict over the essences of sweeteners and olive oils brings chemistry into the courtroom

Roald Hoffmann

Selling It

One way to view advertising is that it represents the best psychology, visual art and poetry that money can buy to cater to the internal illogic of our minds. We want it sweet (otherwise, why buy sweeteners?), but we don't want sugar's calories. But oh, do we want the quintessence of sugar, its natural goodness. The advertisements for Equal say it "has a sweet, clean taste, like sugar," or just "tastes like sugar." The advertisements for Splenda say "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar."

A poet should be happy, for here significance is condensed into just a few words—the causal "so," the generative "made of sugar." What calling up of resonances, what evocation of innocent childhood pleasures, of cotton candy! Never mind that the change in properties upon simple chlorine substitution is enough to make sucralose noncaloric. It holds no calories because it is not metabolized. (Actually, studies point to a maximum of 15 percent metabolism, so it does have a few calories. The FDA allows a manufacturer to say "none" when the amount is small.) That's quite a difference from sugar: a molecule modified to the extent that it can fool that supremely efficient machine for turning most anything ingested into atoms, bonds, and energy.

It's having your sweetness, and eating it too; "food" rather than food. It may well be that sucralose sells better because it tastes more sugar-like than aspartame. But as Terry Acree, my colleague, and a student of taste chemistry asks, could you imagine Splenda's advertisements saying simply and honestly, "stimulates the taste buds just like sugar"? No, that won't do. It is clear that Splenda's makers and their advertising agency could not forgo the psychological advantage of manipulating our vulnerable minds with causal chemical logic (it's okay, I love us anyway), of evoking a caries-free, calorie-free yet sugary fantasy. As the market demonstrates, the strategy works.








comments powered by Disqus
 

EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

Other Related Links

Sweet Chemicals

Subscribe to American Scientist