Saccharin safety side effects, danger, is it safe? by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
March 1 2016

Saccharin is 200 to 600 times as sweet as sugar and has no calories. Brand names include Sweet'N Low, Sweet Twin, and Necta Sweet. Saccharin is used in tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, soft drinks, jams, and chewing gum.

Since their discovery, the safety of artificial sweeteners such as saccharin has been controversial. Saccharin provide the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Sscientists disagree about the relationships between saccharin and other artificial sweeteners and lymphomas, leukemias, cancers of the bladder and brain, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and systemic lupus.


The word saccharin has no final "e". The word saccharine, with a final "e", is much older and is an adjective meaning "sugary". Saccharin has an unpleasant bitter or metallic aftertaste, especially at high concentrations. Unlike the newer artificial sweetener aspartame, saccharin is stable when heated, even in the presence of acids, does not react chemically with other food ingredients, and stores well. Blends of saccharin with other sweeteners are often used to compensate for each sweetener's weaknesses.


Saccharin alternative
There are many natural sweeteners that can be used instead of saccharin. My favorite is stevia.

Safety of Saccharin
This artificial sweetener was discovered in 1879 and had been considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) until 1972, when it was removed from the GRAS list by the FDA. By definition in the law, a GRAS substance has a long history of safe use in foods, or is determined to be safe based on proven science. But if new evidence suggests that a GRAS substance may no longer be safe, the FDA can prohibit its use or require further safety studies.
     In 1977, the FDA proposed a ban on saccharin because of concerns about rats that developed bladder cancer after receiving high doses of saccharin. In response, Congress passed the Saccharin Study and Labeling Act. This legislation put a moratorium on the ban while more safety studies were under way. Also, foods containing saccharin were required to carry a label warning that the sweetener could be a health hazard and that it was found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Saccharin has been the subject of more than 30 studies in humans.
     According to the National Cancer Institute, further studies showed that saccharin did not cause cancer in humans, and that the bladder tumors in rats were related to a mechanism that isn't relevant for humans.
     In 2000, the National Toxicology Program determined that saccharin should no longer be listed as a potential cancer-causing agent. Federal legislation followed in 2001, removing the requirement for the saccharin warning label.


Endocrinology. January 2014. Administration of saccharin to neonatal mice influences body composition of adult males and reduces body weight of females. Nutritional or pharmacological perturbations during perinatal growth can cause persistent effects on the function of white adipose tissue, altering susceptibility to obesity later in life. Previous studies have established that saccharin, a non-nutritive sweetener, inhibits lipolysis in mature adipocytes and stimulates adipogenesis. Thus, the current study tested whether neonatal exposure to saccharin via maternal lactation increased susceptibility of mice to diet-induced obesity. Saccharin decreased body weight of female mice beginning post-natal week 3. Decreased liver weights on week 14 corroborated this diminished body weight. Initially, saccharin also reduced male mouse body weight. By week 5, weights transiently rebounded above controls and by week 14 male body weights did not differ. Body composition analysis revealed saccharin increased lean and decreased fat mass of male mice, the latter due to decreased adipocyte size and epididymal, perirenal and subcutaneous adipose weights. A mild improvement in glucose tolerance without a change in insulin sensitivity or secretion aligned with this leaner phenotype. Interestingly, micro-computed tomography (μCT) analysis indicated saccharin also increased cortical and trabecular bone mass of male mice and modified cortical bone alone in female mice. A modest increase in circulating testosterone may contribute to the leaner phenotype in male mice. Accordingly, the current study established a developmental period in which saccharin at high concentrations reduces adiposity and increases lean and bone mass in male mice, while decreasing generalized growth in female mice.


J Pak Med Assoc. 2015. Artificial sweeteners: safe or unsafe? Artificial sweeteners or intense sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are used as an alternative to table sugar. They are many times sweeter than natural sugar and as they contain no calories, they may be used to control weight and obesity. Extensive scientific research has demonstrated the safety of the six low-calorie sweeteners currently approved for use in foods in the U.S. and Europe (stevia, acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose), if taken in low quantities daily. There is some ongoing debate over whether artificial sweetener usage poses a health threat .