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Book Blurb

“Carolyn Thomas ably charts new territory in this fine cultural
history of artificial sweeteners. Empty Pleasures is replete with in-
sightful readings about the intersections between health, gender,
technology, and consumption.”
Senses & Society, Volume 7, Issue 1, 2012

"In a time when questions about health, nutrition, and weight abound, when Americans are blaming everything from video games to corn syrup to Happy Meals for their current less than healthy state, Thomas’s book provides a welcome and an enlightening examination of consumption and its consequences."—Catherine Ramsdell, (link to review)

“Charmingly written and exhaustively researched, Thomas’s exploration provides a fascinating look into a seemingly commonplace food additive. Most importantly, her insight ultimately provides a call to action. In a century in which our key challenge as Americans is to find a way to limit our desires to what our markets, our planets, and our bodies can hold, “it may be time to reassess what artificial sweeteners and the low-calorie industry they have enabled have actually done.”
—Elizabeth Millard, ForeWord Magazine

The New Yorker "Book Bench" blog

"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

"Empty Pleasures, a rich and rewarding read, makes the tools of cultural analysis available to a wide range of readers. Thomas’s argument, that artificial sweeteners provide consumers with a way to exercise 'indulgent restraint,' will surely re-energize scholarly and policy discussions of the American diet." 
—Jennifer Scanlon, author of Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown

"At a time when we are overwhelmed by a million studies about the purported 'obesity epidemic,' Thomas'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

"Thomas believes that in small doses, artificial sweeteners are safe unless one has a special sensitivity. The substances have also enhanced the lives of diabetics. But they have been unhealthy for society as a whole in ways that go beyond chemistry.
Nina C. Ayoub, The Chronicle of Higher Education (read the entire review).

"Just before World War I, Americans were shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that some unscrupulous bottlers were putting saccharin in their soft drinks. By 1970, according to historian Carolyn Thomas in "Empty Pleasures," 75 percent of Americans were happily consuming artificial sweeteners in some form or another."
—Ben Steelman, Star-News, Wilmington, NC (read the entire review).

"This book is absolutely fascinating. Thomas ties together several storylines—the development of nutritional science, the struggle of the modern woman to sculpt an ideal body, the struggle between the producers and the regulatory agencies. I felt as though each time I opened the book I gained more insight into my own eating habits, as well as our consumption as a country."
—Leah Douglas, (read the entire review; also available to read the review on your mobile device)

"Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda explores an important and completely overlooked chapter in America's food history: how and why and in less than three decades, consumers changed from craving sugar to rejecting it in favor of the seductive pleasures of artificial sweeteners. The book is a powerfully engaging and (for the most part) highly readable narrative that tells the story of Americans' growing acceptance of sweet-tasting food products and outlines the development of artificial sweeteners, their impacts on the food industry, and the cultural implications of our changing food preferences."
—Susan Wittig Albert, (read the entire review)

"In this cultural history, Thomas 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."
Barnes and Noble, Reviews and Essays

"Covering more than 125 years of invention, marketing, controversy and social adaptation, the book allows us to view 20th-century America through the progress of its sweeteners."
—Adam Sobsey ( Read the enitre review (Empty Pleasures views 20th-century America through the progress of its sweeteners.) 

Buy the Book

The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda
by Carolyn de la Peña

The University of North Carolina Press

Paperback available in August!

Copyright 2010 Carolyn Thomas