Friday, May 13, 2005

Muley's Mysteries: Retsyn

Does the word "Retsyn" ring a bell with you? If so, do you know what it is? Before today, I didn't.

I see lots of hands up. Before I choose one of you to answer, let me tell you what Retsyn is NOT:

* The Soviet leader who succeeded Gorbachev
* Meg Ryan's original name
* The Starship Enterprise redshirt who was killed by the Horta
* An aphrodisiac made from dried walrus whiskers
* That rock group that sounds a lot like Coldplay and sings songs about extraterrestrials
* A tiny principality between France and Germany known for exporting horseradish
* The word "sunset" in Norwegian
* The rockets which powered early U.S. attempts at space flight
* A Buddhist term for the spirit of someone who died owing you money
* The scientific term for the sap that holds bark to a tree
* The Swedish composer who refused to use B-flats because of a fortuneteller's prediction that he would die after something heavy fell on him

No, as many of us know from endless TV commercials, Retsyn is that stuff added to Certs breath mints. But I got to thinking today –– just what is Retsyn?

My first stop was the Certs web site, where Retsyn (a registered trademark, by the way) is described as "a combination of partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, copper gluconate and flavoring." This by itself is not a concoction I would want to shove in my mouth, so I knew there must be more to the story.

I next visited a web site where there was a posting by someone identified only as "Madison Avenue Steve," which leads me to believe he considers himself an expert on advertising, not science. Anyway, Steve's posting has its own definition of Retsyn:

"Copper gluconate. Put in there entirely because it's green and gives little green flecks. Does nothing else. Now, don't you feel silly?"

The only thing in common with both of these definitions seems to be that something called copper gluconate is a major element of Retsyn. But what is that?

Another web search, this time to the site of someone named David A. Cushman, who has lots of scientific-sounding data and drawings under his entry for copper gluconate. He defines it as "the copper salt of D-gluconic acid." Mmm, getting tastier by the moment.

D.A.C. says that copper gluconate is a "blue-green fine powder" which by both "F.C.C. III" and "U.S.P. XXII" standards contains "not more than 0.0003%" arsenic and "not more than 0.0010%" lead, among other substances. D.A.C. says it's "very soluble" in water, but after reading his description, I still didn't find anything to prove or disprove Madison Avenue Steve's assertion that Retsyn "does nothing else" except provide green sparklies.

On to yet another web site –– this one at Here, copper gluconate is described as "a readily absorbable form of copper often used in quality copper supplements." So far, so good. But what about its purpose? Is it indeed just a way to color breath mints green?

These folks don't seem to think so. According to their web site, copper gluconate is "one of the most important blood antioxidants and prevents the rancidity of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also helps keep cell membranes healthy and is active in the storage and release of iron to form hemoglobin for red blood cells."

Wow –– this substance pooh-poohed by some for its ability to add "little green flecks" to breath mints is apparently some desirable stuff indeed. I mean, I for one don't believe in letting any part of myself go rancid, even if it is my fat deposits.

But wait –– there's more. After pausing to take a breath, the folks at up the ante. They say that copper gluconate "may act as an immune system booster, and help keep nerves and bones healthy." And in a final flourish, they tell us: "Other potential benefits of copper gluconate include: helping with high cholesterol, osteoporosis, wound healing, benign hyperplasia, cardiac arrhythmia, hypoglycaemia, peripheral vascular disease, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis."

"Silly," indeed! Why hasn't someone won the Nobel Prize for isolating this stuff? Why isn't all my food covered with little green flecks of this, me who shies away from rancid fat, enjoys having red blood cells to burn and prefers wounds that heal over constantly running sores?

The answer is in the next two lines: "Copper can be toxic if taken in large excesses. Average adults need about 2 mgs." Now that's undoubtedly a LOT more than is in a package of Certs, so I don't think there's any danger there. But it does give me pause.

I've decided I'll just stick to chewing my delicious Certs and leave it at that. No trips across the border to Mexico to buy mass quantities of copper gluconate to store in my basement in hermetically sealed containers. No late night trips downtown to the seedy "Retsyn district" to score a pound bag.

So, thanks to the Internet, I've learned something today. Retsyn appears to be some pretty interesting stuff –– beneficial at best, harmless at worst. And now when those Certs commercials play, I'll at least know what the heck they're talking about.

Quote for the day:

"The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories that it has come to be disbelieved. Few people dare say nowadays that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet that is the way love begins, and only that way. The rest is only the rest, and comes afterwards. Nothing is more real than the great shocks that two souls give each other in exchanging this spark."

--Victor Hugo
from Les Miserables


Joel said...

Thanks for tracking this down. Your blog is like an air of fresh breath.

Katalina B said...

If I may quote a writer/ investigator/blogger (that I am coming to admire...)
"So, thanks to the Internet, I've learned something today."
"Muley's Mysteries: Retsyn"

Anonymous said...

What about tetrahydoxyline?

Sottish Sophist said...

I see that your blog still rocks. That's awesome. Now what I need to know are the health effects of corn syrup. Because every time I consume it I get a little bit inebriated, but I suppose that's fitting. Anyways, thanks for the entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the very informative article. It is very nicely written.

Zabumafu85 said...

You are super awesome, im sitting here trying to my homework and saw the word 'Retsyn' on my package of certs...what the hell is that? So i googled and landed on yr blog. You sure saved me alot of researching=) Now back to homework, thanks dude!

cate said...

wow. this is one of those impromtpu poll questions i elicit of people at parties ,,, by my searching for it on the internet after years of noncommittal and vague replies, you've answered it. thanks!

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