Many of you are probably already aware of the big study from the past week — the one showing that artificial sweeteners impair glucose tolerance by modifying your gut bacteria. If you aren’t, read up. I’ll have more to say about this study — some deeper questions and some dot connecting — soon.
But right now I want to alert people to something a little more practical.
Earlier today, I was reading this post on the blog of microbiologist Jonathan Eisen. In the post he calls attention to the fact that triclosan, an antibacterial agent, is in his toothpaste. He takes toothpaste makers to task for downplaying and minimizing the risk, and he’s right. A study recently came out showing that triclosan promotes nasal colonization of Staphylococcus aureus. Major source of infections.
Triclosan is the active ingredient in antibacterial soaps and lots of other products. More and more research is showing that it’s bad stuff, and many people are catching on. But as Jonathan’s post shows, many people aren’t aware of just how many things it’s in.
I myself have known about triclosan in toothpaste for a while, and so I’ve made it a point to avoid it. But since I hadn’t really paid attention in a while, I decided to go and check my current tube of Crest toothpaste just to make sure. Luckily, no triclosan.
But then I noticed something else.
Buried in the ingredients list, I found this:
Sodium saccharin. THE VERY SAME ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER THAT WAS SHOWN TO INDUCE DIABETES IN MICE AND HUMANS IN THAT STUDY.
You just can’t win, can you?
Now, I have no idea if the amount of saccharin in toothpaste is clinically significant. And I know, you aren’t swallowing a ton of toothpaste. But multiple brushings a day, every day, over decades? And what about the oral microbial impact?
Honestly, I don’t care. I’m buying new toothpaste tomorrow.
Oh, and I love this Q&A on Crest’s website:
Q:Saccharin in Crest Toothpaste?
We use saccharin as a sweetener in Crest for a variety of reasons. Saccharin offers better stability both during manufacture and while on store shelves or in your medicine cabinet. Saccharin does not contribute to the development of cavities.
We’re confident our use of saccharin is completely safe for our customers, or we would not use it. Consumers regularly ingest higher levels of saccharin in more frequently used foods and beverages than we would ever expect them to ingest by using Crest. And, of course, our use of saccharin is permitted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Oh good. I’m sure the FDA is up on the latest microbiome research. I bet they’re issuing a warning as we speak.
By the way, saccharin was banned as a carcinogen by the U.S. and Canada in the 1970s. Those bans have since been lifted because, as far as I can tell, saccharin isn’t quite cancer-y enough and it’s more important to allow food manufacturers to make money from people dying, or something.
Moral of the story: Microbiome research makes everything outdated, and puts everything under suspicion.
That is all.