I know I am starting this article with an “artificial sweetener” most people think causes cancer, but saccharin is one of the safest “traditional” artificial choices, and it is actually one of the safest alternative sweeteners to use (if you insist on tearing open a colored packet, that is).
Natural sugars such as Sucanat® and stevia are preferable over saccharin of course, but saccharin has less harmful side effects than the more modern artificial sweeteners (especially for the diabetic) and it is readily available, and not too over-priced.
I consider the original saccharin a more natural alternative because it is not a highly chemical one. Advertisers have painted a very different picture of saccharin over the past twenty years, though, and the politics behind “sodium saccharide” has left it with a bum rap.
The Secret – Don’t Use Too Much Or It Will Taste Bitter
Saccharin is actually a natural plant sugar derivative, and back in the day when saccharin was “accidentally” discovered, it was considered an authentic sugar substitute because it was the only known alternative to traditional sugar.
An Internet search shows that saccharin is a tar-based derivative discovered in the lab, but if you talk to WWII vets who were stationed in India over the war, they’ll tell you that they got saccharin from China – from plant based sources.
So, it appears that saccharin was first materialized in the lab, but its sources appear to be plant based.
Unfortunately, today saccharin’s molecules HAVE BEEN reproduced in the laboratory and the pink packet is filled with anti-caking agents and emulsifiers. Saccharin is no longer sourced to its origin, but it is still the better choice out of the “colorful paper packets.”
Choose the pink packets — even if they have different brand names.
The history of saccharin tells the story of its safety. (And confirms that it was originally from a plant base.)
In 1879, Constantine Fahlberg discovered the sweetness of saccharin by accident. While working on plant studies in the lab, he spilled some chemicals on his hand. Later while eating dinner, he noticed more sweetness in his bread. He traced the sweetness back to the spilled element, which he later named saccharin—a spin-off of saccharide (complex sugar).
By 1907, saccharin was used as a replacement for sugar in foods for diabetics. Since pure saccharin is not metabolized into the bloodstream, it is classified as a noncaloric sweetener.
Now, stop for a second and process this statement: pure saccharin is not metabolized into the bloodstream.
Aspartame penetrates into your brain.
Sucralose is toxic to your liver, kidneys and bladder.
Acesulfame-K and cyclamate were shown to cause cancer in lab rats.
If pure saccharin is not metabolized into the bloodstream and its cancer warning was proven as bogus, it is obviously safer for human consumption, especially for diabetics because it won’t spike blood sugar.
Back To Saccharin’s History
Saccharin was widely used in Europe during World War II because of a sugar shortage during the war. My father starting using saccharin during World War II while stationed in India, and he continued to safely use it his entire lifetime.
Most European countries continued using saccharin as their number one alternative sweetener of choice until NutraSweet® lost its patent in the 1990s, spawning the introduction of many new chemical sweetener choices.
By the 1960s, saccharin was used on a wider scale in the “diet soft drink industry” in Coca Cola’s Tab® and Fresca®, but primarily due to the times, the diet industry never took off at the time.
Why Was Saccharin Labeled A Carcinogen?
According to my research, which you can find in my books, it appears that in the 1960s saccharin was sacrificed to make room for the new, more profitable sweetener, NutraSweet/Equal.
In 1902, Monsanto Chemical Company gained its reputation by manufacturing saccharin, the company’s first product. From 1903 through 1905, their entire saccharin output was shipped to the growing, new soft drink company in Georgia named The Coca-Cola Company®.
According to Monsanto’s company history, the U.S. government filed suit over the safety of saccharin at Monsanto’s request in 1917. Monsanto used the suit as a test case for safety, and the suit was dismissed in 1925. This gave saccharin much-needed government approval for safety early on.
Then curiously in 1969, saccharin was suddenly questioned as a carcinogen — out of the blue. No reputable scientific proof was ever presented. Note: this was the year NutraSweet applied for their first patent.
Something most people don’t realize is the saccharin toxicity study was actually done using a blend of cyclamate and saccharin, and the results were “shown” as linking cyclamate — not saccharin — to bladder cancer in the lab rats.
Researchers fed laboratory mice sweetened water that was equivalent to 800 cans of saccharin/cyclamate every day from birth until death. In ONE test, ONE mouse developed bladder cancer, and the results were then submitted to the FDA requesting a cancer warning be placed on all saccharin products.
Cyclamate was banned in 1970. No further testing was performed on cyclamate.
So why didn’t the manufacturer of saccharin fight back? Read on …
Eight years after the “saccharin/cancer” scare, G.D. Searle & Co. (the original aspartame manufacturer) finally secured FDA approval for NutraSweet in a second patent request.
It then prepared to sell their sweetener business to Monsanto, the original saccharin manufacturer. Soon, NutraSweet and saccharin (its only competitor) were to be owned by the same company—Monsanto Chemical Company.
This is when the FDA finally (at this time) printed cancer warnings on saccharin packets – the year NutraSweet came onto the market.
So, saccharin’s manufacturer didn’t fight back because both saccharin and aspartame were now owned and marketed by the same company- Monsanto.
If aspartame turned out to be a dud, Monsanto had saccharin waiting on the side-lines.
Monsanto sold The NutraSweet Company in 2000, and in 2001, the cancer warning was removed from saccharin products. Saccharin was now deemed safe for human consumption — once again.
After more than 100 years of use worldwide, there have only been 6 complaints against saccharin registered with the FDA. Yet, saccharin has been one of the most demonized food ingredients among the chemical sweeteners — the only sweetener labeled as a possible carcinogen.
Extensive research on human populations has established no association between saccharin and cancer. In fact, more than 30 human studies have been performed, and they all support saccharin’s safety at human levels of consumption.
It appears the corporate saccharin cancer studies in the late 1960s were indeed questionable, and is an example of a marketing genius to promote a new sweetener product – NutraSweet.
Cumberland Packing Corp., Brooklyn, New York, has manufactured Sweet‘N Low® containing saccharin for over 40 years. In 2002, over twenty years after the flawed cancer studies, Cumberland hailed the U.S. Congress for honoring the original moratorium agreement (remember, it was made back in 1981) to lift the cancer warning and grant saccharin a clean bill of health.
“We were finally able to remove the cancer warning from all of our products, and that was a big deal,” Cumberland marketing director says. “We went so far as to replace the cancer warning with the Good Housekeeping Seal. We turned unfair negatives into an immediate positive.”
(See Appendix VII in Splenda®: Is It Safe Or Not? for the FDA Report on Saccharin Safety.)
Saccharin — The Oldest Artificial Sweetener
If saccharin was still processed from its original source, saccharin could be considered a natural sugar like stevia and Sucanat. But after World War II, saccharin fell prey to laboratory manufacturing for mass production.
It is now processed using manmade components to curb manufacturing costs, but for the most part saccharin’s chemical make-up is simple — especially in comparison to the manufacturing process of the other chemical sweeteners, such as sucralose (made with chlorine) and aspartame (bound with methanol).
Saccharin has provided the foundation for many low-calorie and sugar-free products around the world. It is still used in tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, jams, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings and salad dressings.
Saccharin contains only one-eighth of a calorie per teaspoon, and is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar. Today, saccharin is available in both powdered and liquid forms sold without the cancer warning, and is being reintroduced into food products as safe.
If you must use an artificial sweetener on the restaurant tabletops, I recommend saccharin over aspartame or sucralose.
If you want to learn more about the diet sweeteners, contact me at janethull.com. Remember that you are never alone when you are looking for good health!
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. The FDA may not have evaluated some of the statements. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding supplements or making any changes to your dietary program.
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