Saccharin is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners on the market. In fact, it has been used to sweeten foods and beverages for over 100 years. However, it was not until the 1960s and 1970s that it became popular as a replacement for sugar.
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.
Saccharin is a non-nutritive or artificial sweetener . It is made in a laboratory by oxidizing the chemicals o-toluene sulfonamide or phthalic anhydride. It looks like a white, crystalline powder. Saccharin has three forms: acid, sodium and calcium. Sodium is more popular in artificial sweeteners, although some people find that it has a bitter, metallic aftertaste.
Saccharin is commonly used as a sugar substitute because it contains no calories or carbohydrates. Humans cannot break down saccharin, so it leaves the body unchanged. It’s about 300 to 400 times sweeter than regular sugar, so you only need a small amount to get a sweet taste.
However, it can have an unpleasant and bitter aftertaste. This is why saccharin is typically mixed with other low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners. For example, saccharin is sometimes combined with aspartame, another low-calorie sweetener commonly found in carbonated diet drinks.
Food manufacturers often use saccharin because it is fairly stable and has a long shelf life. It is 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 medications. It can be used similar to table sugar for sprinkling on foods, such as cereal or fruit, or used as a sugar substitute in coffee or when baking.
Experts have set the acceptable daily intake for saccharin at 5 mg per kg of body weight. This means that if we weigh 70 kg, we can consume 350 mg per day.
To put this in perspective, we could drink 3.7 cans of diet soda a day, and that would be almost 10 servings of saccharin. No study has measured total saccharin intake, but studies in European countries have found it to be within limits.
Does saccharin make you fat?
Replacing sugar with a low-calorie sweetener may benefit weight loss and protect against obesity. That’s because it allows us to consume foods and drinks with fewer calories.
Depending on the recipe, saccharin can replace 50-100% of the sugar in certain food products without significantly compromising flavor or texture. However, some studies suggest that consuming artificial sweeteners like saccharin may increase hunger, food intake, and weight gain .
An observational study in women found that those who used artificial sweeteners gained about 2 pounds more than those who didn’t. However, a high-quality study that looked at all the evidence on artificial sweeteners and how they affect food intake and body weight found that replacing sugar with low- or zero-calorie sweeteners does not cause weight gain.
Rather, it leads to reduced calorie intake (94 fewer calories per meal, on average) and reduced weight (1.4kg, on average).
Although not many benefits appear in the consumption of saccharin, for years it has been thought that it had the following positive effects:
- Auxiliary for weight loss . Using this no-calorie sweetener instead of natural sugar can help prevent obesity. By eating foods with low-calorie saccharin instead of foods with high-calorie sugars, we can control the amount of calories we eat.
- Caries prevention . Natural sugar is one of the most important causes of oral health problems. When it breaks down inside the mouth, the bacteria in plaque release acids that damage enamel. Saccharin, on the other hand, does not ferment in the mouth. Taking saccharin instead of sugar can help protect teeth from cavities, as long as we keep an eye on other food ingredients and maintain good oral hygiene habits.
- Possible regulation of blood sugar . The human body cannot metabolize saccharin. Therefore, the blood sugar level will not rise after consuming it. This characteristic makes saccharin seem ideal for people with diabetes, but research on the actual effects of saccharin on blood sugar lacks conclusive evidence so far.
Saccharin is considered safe for human consumption by most health authorities. That said, there is still some skepticism about its potentially negative effects on human health.
One study found that the use of saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame can upset the balance of bacteria in the gut . Research in this area is relatively new and limited. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that changes in gut bacteria are associated with increased risk of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.
In an 11-week study, mice fed a daily dose of aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin showed unusually high blood sugar levels. This indicates glucose intolerance and thus an increased risk of metabolic disease . However, once the mice were treated with antibiotics that killed gut bacteria, blood glucose levels returned to normal.
The same experiment was performed on a group of healthy people who consumed the maximum recommended dose of saccharin daily for five days. Four of seven had abnormally high blood sugar levels, as well as changes in gut bacteria. The others experienced no change in gut bacteria.
Scientists believe that artificial sweeteners like saccharin may encourage the growth of a type of bacteria that is better at converting food into energy. This means that more calories are available from food, which increases the risk of obesity. However, this research is very new. More studies are needed to explore the link between artificial sweeteners and changes in gut bacteria.