Saccharin was the first artificial sweetener to be discovered. Like most other artificial sweeteners it was discovered by accident, and it made its inventor Constantin Fahlberg rich.

 It is 300 times as sweet as sugar but it has a slightly unpleasant metallic aftertaste. It has a zero glycemic index, contains no calories and is suitable for diabetics. It was once the only non glycemic sweetener available and was of great benefit to sufferers of diabetes. Not very heat stable so not a first choice for cooking. Sometimes mixed with cyclamate which seems to partly mask the aftertaste. It works well in cordial fruit drinks.

Zero glycemic index. Zero calories. Does not contribute to tooth decay. It is also inexpensive.

In some ways saccharin is probably the safest artificial sweetener - for one major reason: it has been tested on humans for over one hundred years. It was first sold in the late 1800s and has been on the market ever since. In that time there have been no obvious side effects reported or proven. So there are unlikely to be any new surprises in this regard.

It got a bad name in the 1970s when tests showed it to be harmful to rodents if fed in large quantities. Packets were required to carry a warning on the label. However it was discovered that this mechanism did not apply to primates (humans and monkeys) as their digestive system is different, and consequently the warning was dropped. Taken in moderation it is probably totally safe.

More information on FDA testing of Saccharin here.

Although artificial sweeteners contain zero calories, they do not always appear to be effective against obesity and diabetes. Statistical and clinical tests have repeatedly shown this to be so, though, until now the reason has been a mystery. However a new trial, conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel and published Sept 17th 2014, sheds more light on the situation. It appears that these sweeteners affect the bacteria in the bowel in adverse ways. Tests showed impaired glucose metabolism in subjects, human and animal following moderate consumption over several weeks. More information is available in Science News. While further testing is needed, perhaps including natural zero calorie sweeteners, the results are indeed worrying. Perhaps these sweeteners have no role at all to play in weight loss and may be a poorer choice than regular sugar! Watch this space!

Safety Guideline:
The FDA has issued a guideline ADI of 15mg of this substance per kg of body weight. For the average person this would be equivalent to about 56 cans of soda sweetened with it.

CSPI (US) Recommendation

The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - AVOID

It is a totally artificial compound produced chemically.

Sold As:
It is sold as sweet and low (sweet 'n low) in the pink packets. Also sold as Sucron, a blend containing ordinary sugar.

How Expensive?
Being the oldest intense sweetener one might expect it to be cheap - and it is! On the bulk market it is about 2% the price of sugar for the same unit of sweetness. The patent has long ago expired so it is a commodity product now most of it being produced in China

Saccharin Market Share:
In 2012 it  sold approx 7.4 million tonnes equivalent out of a total world market of approx 188 million tonnes. (Sugar was about 155 million tonnes) This would give it about 3.9% of the total market by unit of sweetness. By value it would be significantly less. It is still the largest selling intense sweetener, though its share has been falling in recent years.

Interesting facts:
It is the cheapest sweetener after Neotame. It blends very well with other sweeteners, or even with a small amount of sugar in low calorie rather than zero calorie drinks.

Approved for use everywhere. Goes under the E954 number in the EU.


Conclusions for Saccharin

After 120 years being sold and consumed all over the world it is probably reasonable to assume that this artificial sweetener is safe. Because it is sometimes used in the form of a sodium salt it may add slightly to the sodium content in foods. People on low salt diets should check the labels, however the amounts are tiny. Doesn't taste quite as good as some other sweeteners now on the market.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Saccharin 0 300 0 0

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- Yes - slightly metallic
Concerns: ----- Maybe

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