Saccharin is one of the most disputed sugar substitutes in the United States today. Since 1977, it has been regarded as potentially carcinogenic (Saccharin, 1999). The sweetness of saccharin compared to sugarcane is utterly amazing. When measured up to sugarcane, saccharin is 550 times as sweet in its pure state. Also, it is estimated to have a sweetening power of 375 times that of sugar (Saccharin, 2000)! This drug may be amazing, but some people say that it causes a dangerous disease, cancer.
In 1879, while developing new food preservatives a young Johns Hopkins chemistry research assistant accidentally discovered that one of the organic compounds he was testing was intensely sweet. He named it saccharum, the Greek word for sugar. He further learned that it passed through the body unchanged and was thus a safe artificial sweetener for diabetics (Anderson, 1995). Similar sugar substitutes are used today.
Saccharin, which is also known as ortho-sulpho benzimide, is a white crystalline solid derived form coal tar. Them chemical formula is known as C6H4CONHSO2 (Saccharin, 1999). In 1977, saccharin was banned in Canada, but it has been kept on the market in the United States (Saccharin, 2000). It may be legal in the United States, but warning labels are necessary on saccharin-containing foods (Saccharin, 2000).
In 1997, a group of scientists urged the federal agency to keep the artificial on its list of cancer-causing agents (CSPI, 1997). The National Toxicology Program, NTP, said that declaring saccharin sage would, result in greater exposure to this probable carcinogen in tens of millions of people If saccharin is even a weak carcinogen, this unnecessary additive would pose an intolerable risk to the public, (CSPI, 1997). They felt that even if it is weak, it still is a carcinogen.
Samuel Epstein, a professor of environmental medicine at Illinois Medical Center in Chicago said, In light of the many animal and human studies clearly demonstrating that saccharin is a carcinogenic, it is astonishing that the NTP is even considering delisting saccharin, (CSPI, 1997). Many other scientist still today believe and have proven that saccharin is a cancer causing agent (at high doses in lab animals), but still people use it day in and day out at restaurants and their homes. Still many people are trying to have it removed from the list of carcinogens.
Saccharin was also test on many laboratory animals, especially lab rats. They concluded that a high dietary dose of sodium saccharin causes urinary bladder tumors in rats (Bell, 1998). Even though many other chemicals are known to cause bladder cancer, including aromatic amines and azo dyes, as well as cigarettes (Bell, 1998). However, it was suggested that saccharin might be different from other bladder carcinogens.
It has been argued that a large dose-response study shows a threshold exists between 1% and 3% saccharin in the diets of males rates and that levels below that are not carcinogenic (Bell, 1998). What that means is saccharin is a non-genotoxic carcinogen that can have a threshold response below which human exposure should not be a health concern (Bell, 1998). So, at a large dose, saccharin is considered a carcinogen. But at the levels that a human would consume them, saccharin is too weak and should not be a health concern.
Even though saccharin is safe at small doses, the unnecessary additive should be kept on the list of carcinogens. But still in 1998, the government advisory group had given a clean bill of health to the artificial sweetener, saccharin (Grady, 1998). Saccharin was one of the most controversial and experimented drugs ever on the market. And after all the tests, and all of the news specials, and write-ups, it was declared to be safe!
Why was saccharin created in the first place? Saccharin has been used to sweeten foods and beverages without calories or carbohydrates for over a century. Its use was considerable during the sugar shortages of the two world wars, particularly in Europe (Backgrounder, 1999). In the United States, the continual use of saccharin has made it part of out lifestyle. Saccharin is of the utmost importance to a person with diabetes, and a person struggling with calorie intake.
According to opinion research, people use saccharin to stay in better overall health, control weight or maintain an attractive physical appearance. Research also has shown that health professionals believe saccharin is especially beneficial to persons with diabetes and the obese, and helps reduce dental cavities (Backgrounder, 1999).
Throughout the 1970s, saccharin was the only low-calorie sweetener available in the United States. Today, saccharin is vital to low-calorie food makers, and diet beverage makers. It is used in the U.S. in such products as soft drinks, tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, jams, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings and salad dressings. One of its most popular uses is in Sweet ‘N Low, a tabletop sweetener (Backgrounder, 1999).
Saccharin is not the only sweetener available today though. Besides saccharin, there is aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. Since manufacturers have this option, they can combine the sweeteners to produce the best tasting product.
The American Society of Bariatric Physicians says it best, “With currently available data, the Society still believes the benefits of saccharin use far outweigh its alleged risks, (Backgrounder, 1999). Saccharin is a safe substitute for sugar. Saccharin is perfect for people tying to lose weight and people with diabetes. Saccharin is only dangerous when large amounts are consumed. It is safe, but if I were you, I would avoid itjust in case!
Works Sited Page
Backgrounder on Saccharin (Benefits/Safety/Public Policy) [On-line]. (1999). Available:
CSPI Reports [On-line]. (1998). Available:
Saccharin [On-line]. (1999). Hutchinson Encyclopedia. Available:
Saccharin [On-line]. (2000). Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Available:
Saccharin Still Poses Cancer Risk, Scientists Tell Federal Agency [On-line]. (1997). CSPI Press Releases. Available: