Saccharin sodium is a type of artificial sweetener that is sweeter than sucrose but has a bitter aftertaste. Saccharin sodium is often used to sweeten soft drinks, candy, biscuits, medicine and toothpaste. Prior to the year 2000, the Food and Drug Administration required that a warning label be placed on products containing saccharin sodium due to its possible health risks. Butin 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency removed saccharin sodium from its list of hazardous materials. However, ingesting saccharin sodium may still cause some side effects.
According to a 1997 report written by the Center for the Science in Public Interest, or CSPI, saccharin sodium may act as a possible carcinogen and needs to be further investigated for its potential effect on an increase in the incidence of cancer. Although there has been no clear connection made between saccharin sodium and cancer in humans, it may act as a carcinogen, or cancer-causing compound, in rats and mice. Further research in this field must be conducted to determine the effect of saccharin sodium on cancer cells, particularly in relation to bladder cancer.
Saccharin sodium contains no caloric value and is not absorbed by your intestines. However, the sweet taste of saccharin may stimulate an endocrinological response, such as insulin production from your pancreas. The main effect of insulin is to transport sugar in the blood stream to various body tissues that can use it for energy. Without any sugar entering the blood stream after ingesting an artificial sweetener like saccharin sodium, insulin has nothing to bind on to. This may decrease your insulin sensitivity, which may increase your risk for developing diabetes.
Saccharin sodium may cause some individuals to experience a potentially severe allergic reaction, mainly due to the presence of sulfonamides. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to saccharin include headache, difficulty breathing, the sudden appearance of a skin rash or hives and diarrhea. In infants, an allergic reaction caused by saccharin used in some baby formulas may cause irritability and muscle dysfunction. If you believe you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to saccharin, seek medical attention immediately.
Even though saccharin is an artificial sweetener that has no caloric value, the "Los Angeles Times" cited evidence that saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners, may increase the risk of obesity. The sweet taste of saccharin signals your body that it is about to receive a high amount of calories, and your digestive system prepares for the additional calories. When these calories do not come, your body may become resistant to this response, which can promote fat storage and weight gain.
- "Nutrition for Health, Fitness, and Sport"; Melvin H. Williams; 2002
- EPA; EPA Removes Saccharin From Hazardous Substance Listing; 2010
- CSPI; Chemical Cuisine
- "The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, and Herbs"; Nicola Reavley; 1999
- LA Times; Saccharin May Lead to Weight Gain; Denise Gellene; 2008