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HIGH LIFE: A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : Not Much Reason to Fear Toothpaste

April 07, 1989

In Cecil Adams' column "The Straight Dope," which has appeared in alternative newspapers since 1973, he answered the following letter:

I understand some brands of toothpaste contain sugar. Would you be a consumer advocate and list those that do so I can avoid them?

"Most brands of toothpaste contain not sugar but a very small amount of saccharin, about 0.2% of the total volume," Adams writes. "As you may know, there have been reports linking saccharin to cancer in laboratory rats, but industry spokesmen claim that a healthy 150-pound adult would have to eat 606 standard size 5.5-ounce tubes of toothpaste every day for 50 years in order to reach the level of saccharin that caused the rat tumors.

"A sweetener of some kind is clearly necessary; unsweetened toothpaste is about as yummy as a stick of chalk. Other toothpaste ingredients include natural flavoring such as spearmint or peppermint, beefed up by emulsifiers, preservatives and artificial flavors. These also are thought to be harmless, but you never know.

"Personally I am oblivious to considerations of personal safety, but if you would rather not risk it, you might want to get yourself a box of baking soda and brush with that. For flavor you can throw in a little cinnamon."

Will the calories consumed late at night turn instantly to fat when you fall asleep?

No, a Washington physician says: If you're not overweight, you probably don't need to worry about late-night snacking. "It's not the time (we eat) so much as the amount of calories we ingest compared with what we spend," said Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, director of Washington's Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health of the American Assn. for World Health and author of a report on late-night snacking in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. "I don't think it matters when you eat. If you keep the expenditure and intake in balance, you're not going to gain weight."

Dr. Grant Gwinup, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at UC Irvine's College of Medicine, agrees: "For normal-weight people, late-night eating is not a problem. But for obese people, it's bad to eat late at night." If you're trying to lose weight, "have five or six very small meals during the day," he advises. "And schedule the last meal so you're mildly hungry before bedtime."

--KATHLEEN DOHENY

"You can't steal second base and keep one foot on first."

--An unnamed 60-year-old

junior executive

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