Artificial Sweeteners. Saccharin

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Saccharin has been around for over 100 years and claims to be the "best researched sweetener." It was discovered when a researchers was working on coal tar derivatives. Saccharin is also known as Sweet and Low, Sweet Twin, Sweet'N Low, and Necta Sweet. It does not contain any calories, does not raise blood sugar levels, and its sweetness is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It has a bitter aftertaste.

The FDA's guidelines on the use of saccharin for beverages are not to exceed 12 mg/fluid ounce, and in processed food, the amount is not to exceed 30 mg per serving. The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for saccharin is 5 mg/kg of body weight. To determine your ADI, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 and then multiply it by 5. For example, if you weighed 180 lbs., your weight in kg would be 82 (180 divided by 2.2) and your ADI for saccharin would be 410 mg (5 x 82). Saccharin is used in tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, jams, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings, and salad dressings. It also is used in cosmetic products, vitamins, and pharmaceuticals.

In 1977, research showed bladder tumors in male rats with the ingestion of saccharin. The FDA proposed a ban on saccharin based on the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act enacted in 1958. This clause prohibits the addition to the human food supply of any chemical that had caused cancer in humans or animals. Congress intervened after public opposition to the ban. This was the only artificial sweetener available at that time and the public did not want to lose the diet products that contained it. Congress allowed saccharin to remain in the food supply as long as the label carried this warning: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." Further research was required to confirm the tumor findings.

Since then, more than 30 human studies have been completed and found that the results found in rats did not translate to humans, making saccharin safe for human consumption. The reason for this may be that the original study gave the rats an amount that was hundreds of times higher than "normal" ingestion for humans. In 2000, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institutes of Health concluded that saccharin should be removed from the list of potential carcinogens. The warning has now been removed from saccharin-containing products. Out of the five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners, saccharin is often chosen to be the safest.

The safety concerns of consuming products with saccharin remain even with the removal of the warning. According to a report written in 1997 by the Center for the Science in Public Interest (CSPI) in response to the National Toxicology Program (NTP) removing saccharin from the list of potential carcinogens, "It would be highly imprudent for the NTP to delist saccharin. Doing so would give the public a false sense of security, remove any incentive for further testing, and result in greater exposure to this probable carcinogen in tens of millions of people, including children (indeed, fetuses). If saccharin is even a weak carcinogen, this unnecessary additive would pose an intolerable risk to the public. Thus, we urge the NTP on the basis of currently available data to conclude that saccharin is 'reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen' because there is 'sufficient' evidence of carcinogenicity in animals (multiple sites in rats and mice) and 'limited' or 'sufficient' evidence of carcinogenicity in humans (bladder cancer) and not to delist saccharin, at least until a great deal of further research is conducted."

Another possible danger of saccharin is the possibility of allergic reactions. The reaction would be in response to it belonging to a class of compounds known as sulfonamides, which can cause allergic reactions in individuals who cannot tolerate sulfa drugs. Reactions can include headaches, breathing difficulties, skin eruptions, and diarrhea. It's also believed that the saccharin found in some infant formulas and can cause irritability and muscle dysfunction. For these reasons, many people still believe that the use of saccharin should be limited in infants, children, and pregnant women. Without research to support these claims, the FDA has not imposed any limitations.

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