Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda

Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda

by Carolyn de la Peña
     
 

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Sugar substitutes have been a part of American life since saccharin was introduced at the 1893 World's Fair. In Empty Pleasures, the first history of artificial sweeteners in America, Carolyn de la Pena blends popular culture with business and women's history, examining the invention, production, marketing, regulation, and consumption of sugar substitutes…  See more details below

Overview


Sugar substitutes have been a part of American life since saccharin was introduced at the 1893 World's Fair. In Empty Pleasures, the first history of artificial sweeteners in America, Carolyn de la Pena blends popular culture with business and women's history, examining the invention, production, marketing, regulation, and consumption of sugar substitutes such as saccharin, Sucaryl, NutraSweet, and Splenda. She describes how saccharin, an accidental laboratory by-product, was transformed from a perceived adulterant into a healthy ingredient. As food producers and pharmaceutical companies worked together to create diet products, savvy women's magazine writers and editors promoted artificially sweetened foods as ideal, modern weight-loss aids, and early diet-plan entrepreneurs built menus and fortunes around pleasurable dieting made possible by artificial sweeteners.

NutraSweet, Splenda, and their predecessors have enjoyed enormous success by promising that Americans, especially women, can "have their cake and eat it too," but Empty Pleasures argues that these "sweet cheats" have fostered troubling and unsustainable eating habits and that the promises of artificial sweeteners are ultimately too good to be true.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A well-cited, thought-provoking, and fascinating analysis of the sociological, psychological, political, and financial underpinnings of the promotion and use of artificial sweeteners in the U.S. . . . Highly Recommended"
-CHOICE

"In its most intriguing chapter, the book details the "saccharin rebellion" . . . [which] reveals much about ordinary Americans' perceptions of pleasure in a risk-filled world."
-A Nota Bene Selection of The Chronicle Review

"In this cultural history, de la Pena shows how everyone from scientists to food conglomerates to ad agencies to women's magazines have conspired to make Americans believe we can have our sweets and eat them too."
-BarnesandNobleReview.com

"Absolutely fascinating. . . . This is not a book that scolds you for your gum habit or insists that drinking diet soda will cause you to put on pounds in the long term. Rather, it is a well-written guide to the history and development of a product that permanently changed our meal preparation, our manufacturing system, and our self-perception."
-SeriousEats.com

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807834091
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
09/27/2010
Edition description:
1
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
6.94(w) x 11.78(h) x 0.93(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
At a time when we are overwhelmed by a million studies about the purported 'obesity epidemic,' Carolyn de la Pena's extraordinary book comes along as a refreshing historical perspective on dieting practices, commercial opportunism, and the social construction of 'expert' authority. This gracefully written study offers a bracing antidote to the food industry's craze for nutraceuticals, functional foods, and other technological fixes for public health problems.—Warren Belasco, author of Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

Empty Pleasures provides a fascinating window into the complex history of artificial sweeteners in the United States, blending business history with discussions about how these products actually worked within the lives of consumers. An in-depth, nuanced study.—Amy Farrell, author of Yours in Sisterhood: Ms. Magazine and the Promise of Popular Feminism

Meet the Author

Carolyn de la Pena is a professor of American studies at the University of California, Davis. She is author of The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the Modern American.

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