Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners on the market.
In fact, it has been used to sweeten foods and drinks for over 100 years.
However, it wasn’t until the ’60s and ’70s that it became popular as a sugar replacement.
Some say that replacing sugar with saccharin benefits weight loss, diabetes and dental health.
Others are skeptical about the safety of all artificial sweeteners, including this one.
What Is Saccharin?
It is an artificial or non-nutritive sweetener.
It is made in a laboratory through the oxidation of the chemicals ofo-toluenesulfonamide or phthalic anhydride. It looks like white, crystalline powder.
It is commonly used as a sugar substitute because it doesn’t contain calories or carbs. Humans can’t break down saccharin, so it leaves the body unchanged.
It is around 300–400 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you only need a small amount to get the sweet taste.
However, it can have an unpleasant, bitter aftertaste. This is why this sweetener is often mixed with other low or zero-calorie sweeteners.
For example, saccharin is sometimes combined with aspartame, another low-calorie sweetener commonly found in carbonated diet drinks.
Food manufacturers are very fond of saccharin because it’s fairly stable and has a long shelf life. It’s safe to consume even after years of storage.
In addition to carbonated diet drinks, saccharin is used to sweeten low-calorie candies, jams, jellies and cookies. It is also used in many medicines.
Saccharin can be used like table sugar to sprinkle onto food, such as cereal or fruit, or used as a sugar substitute in coffee or when baking.
Evidence Suggests That it is Safe For Human Consumption
Health authorities all agree that saccharin is safe for human consumption.
These include the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, this wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1970s, several studies linked saccharin to the development of bladder cancer in rats (1).
It was then classified as “possibly cancerous to humans.” Yet further research discovered that the cancer development in rats was not relevant to humans.
Observational studies in humans showed no clear link between saccharin consumption and the risk of cancer (2, 3, 4).
Due to the lack of solid evidence linking saccharin to cancer development, its classification was changed to “not classifiable as cancerous to humans” (5).
However, despite the lack of evidence linking saccharin to cancer, many experts feel observational studies are not sufficient to confirm there is definitely no risk.
Therefore, many still recommend that people avoid saccharin.
Bottom Line: Observational studies in humans have found no evidence that saccharin causes cancer or any harm to human health.
Food Sources of Saccharin
Saccharin is found in a wide variety of “diet foods” and drinks. It’s also used as a table sweetener.
It’s sold under brand names like Sweet ‘N Low,Sweet Twin and Necta Sweet.
Saccharin is available as both granules and as a liquid, with one serving providing sweetness comparable to two teaspoons of sugar.
Another common source of saccharin is artificially sweetened drinks, but the FDA restricts this amount to no more than 12 mg per fluid ounce.
Due to the ban on saccharin in the 1970s, many diet drink manufacturers switched to aspartame as a sweetener and continue to use it today.
Saccharin is often used in baked goods, jams, jelly, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings and salad dressings.
It can also be found in cosmetic products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. Additionally, it’s a common ingredient in medicines, vitamins and pharmaceuticals.
In the European Union, saccharin that has been added to food or drinks can be identified as E954 on the nutrition label.