Sunday, October 23, 2005

What is this Saccharine???

I come across the name saccharin in the ingerdients of many food products, specially in the famous Supari(betel nut-with added flavors)
Mentioned as an artificial sweetner.
Well i thought to find out some information about this saccharine and here is what i got after a little googling.

Saccharin was discovered a century ago and has been used as a non-caloric sweetener in foods and beverages for more than 100 years. American consumers and the doctors, dentists and dietitians who counsel them have overwhelmingly supported its benefits.


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.

In the United States, its daily use by several generations of Americans has made saccharin an integral part of the American lifestyle. It is particularly important to those whose diets require a restriction of caloric or carbohydrate intake, such as persons with diabetes. Most health practitioners favor the use of a non-caloric sweetener like saccharin in weight reduction and for people with diabetes.

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.

Throughout the 1970s, saccharin was the only low-calorie sweetener available in the United States. Saccharin continues to be important for a wide range of low-calorie and sugar-free food and beverage applications. 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. Saccharin also is used in cosmetic products, vitamins and pharmaceuticals.

The current availability of saccharin and three other low-calorie sweeteners, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose, allows manufacturers to utilize a "multiple sweetener approach" -- using the most appropriate sweetener, or combination of sweeteners, for a given product.

No low-calorie sweetener is perfect for all uses. However, a variety of sweeteners enables the development of a much wider range of new, good-tasting, low-calorie products to meet consumer demand. Also, a variety of low-calorie sweeteners provides products with increased stability, improved taste, lower production costs and more choices for the consumer.


Saccharin has been the subject of extensive scientific research. It is one of the most studied ingredients in the food supply. Although the totality of the available research indicates sacccharin is safe for human consumption, there has been controversy over its safety. The basis for the controversy rests primarily on findings of bladder tumors in some male rats fed high doses of sodium saccharin.

Considerable saccharin research, however, indicates safety at human levels of consumption. The average user of saccharin ingests less than one ounce of the sweetener each year.

The scientific data supporting saccharin's safety include the following:
Extensive research on human populations has established no association between saccharin and cancer. More than 30 human studies have been completed and indicate saccharin's safety at human levels of consumption.

In 14 single-generation animal studies involving several species of animals, saccharin was not shown to induce cancer in any organ, even at exceptionally high dose levels.

Saccharin is not metabolized (it passes through the body unchanged) and does not react with DNA (nucleic acid present in all living cells), meaning that saccharin lacks two of the major characteristics of a classical carcinogen.

Saccharin is approved in more than 100 countries around the world and has been reviewed and determined safe by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization and the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union. Based on current research, JECFA recently doubled the ADI (acceptable daily intake) for saccharin. JECFA noted that the animal data which earlier raised questions about saccharin are not considered relevant to humans.

Controversial Rat Experiments

In summary, the case against saccharin still rests primarily on controversial high-dose rat studies in which a sensitive strain was fed the human equivalent of the sodium saccharin in hundreds of cans of diet soft drink a day for a lifetime. Even then, the tests produced bladder tumors only in some of the male rats at the highest doses. A panel of international scientists, which met at Duke University to review saccharin research, reported that "saccharin administered to the rat at high doses produces profound biochemical and physiological changes which do not occur in humans under normal patterns of use." The panel concluded that "the appearance of tumors in rats seems to be a species- and organ-specific phenomenon for which there is at present no explanation."

An extensive dose-response rat study, sponsored by the Calorie Control Council and conducted at the International Research and Development Corporation (IRDC), has further elucidated saccharin's safety at human levels of use by placing the rat data and its relevance to human health in proper perspective. The Duke panel noted: "The results of the IRDC study, by defining more sharply the dose-response relationship for bladder tumor risk in the rat, support the view that the present level of exposure of humans to saccharin, through its use as a food additive, presents an insignificant cancer risk."

Recent research further demonstrates saccharin is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. Saccharin's effects on the rat bladder relate to the salt form (sodium saccharin), diet, urine pH and sodium levels, protein concentrations and types of proteins, and the sex, age and strain of the rats fed sodium saccharin.

Other research indicates that the bladder tumors developed by male rats fed high doses of sodium saccharin are related to very high doses of the sodium salt and not saccharin per se. Sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) and sodium citrate, found in many foods and beverages, demonstrate similar effects.

Need for Saccharin Supported

The extensive research on saccharin has been reviewed by many in the scientific community and by health groups interested in low-calorie sweeteners. These reviews have led to significant statements in support of saccharin. These comments include:

  • "Because recent epidemiologic [human use] studies provide no evidence of increased risk of bladder cancer among users of artificial sweeteners, including saccharin, and because there is no ideal alternative sweetener, saccharin should continue to be available as a food additive." American Medical Association.

  • "Nonnutritive sweeteners [saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame potassium] approved by the FDA are safe to consume by all people with diabetes." American Diabetes Association.

  • "Several years ago, experiments on rats suggested that saccharin might cause cancer. Since then, however, sudies of primates and humans have shown no increased risk of cancer from either saccharin or aspartame." American Cancer Society, 1996 Dietary Guidelines.

  • "The totality of evidence gathered from the numerous animal and human studies of saccharin does not suggest that there is any risk to the human population from the normal use of saccharin. ACSH believes that saccharin should be regarded as a safe food additive." American Council on Science and Health.

  • "With currently available data, the Society still believes the benefits of saccharin use far outweigh its alleged risks." American Society of Bariatric Physicians.

  • "Artificially sweetened beverages and desserts have offered an acceptable alternative to the life of restrictions forced on a diabetic child . . . Parents of diabetics are concerned that in a world without an artificial sweetener for medicines, for cooking and baking the all important birthday cakes and holiday treats, for sodas and snacks, our children will now have an even more difficult medical, social and emotional adjustment." Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

  • "For people who are interested in weight control, and others who must watch what they eat for health reasons, saccharin makes life easier." The Diet Workshop.

Public Policy

The saccharin controversy initiated a long overdue review of U.S. food safety laws. It resulted in a food policy report from the National Academy of Sciences that recommends thorough revision of the U.S. food regulatory system, which the report describes as "complicated, inflexible and inconsistent in application." Congressional consideration is being given to changes in food safety law.

In 1977, Congress passed a moratorium preventing an FDA-proposed saccharin ban. The moratorium has been extended seven times based on the scientific evidence, the counsel of qualified professionals, and the support of consumers. At a 1985 Senate hearing, then-FDA Commissioner Frank Young supported an extension of the moratorium, noting that FDA has less concern about saccharin than in 1977. The Commissioner added that "the actual risk, if any, of saccharin to humans still appears to be slight."

In 1991, the FDA formally withdrew its 1977 proposal to ban the use of saccharin. And, on December 21, 2000, President Clinton signed a bill that will remove the warning label that had been required on saccharin-sweetened products since 1977. Government, scientists and industry are now all in agreement on saccharin's safety.

The continued availability of saccharin will allow it to remain a valued ingredient in many low-calorie foods and beverages, as it has been for over a century.

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