Saccharin,originally synthesized in 1879, is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners used as a sugar replacement and is used largely for diet control and weight loss and for diabetics. It is synthesized from coal tar derivatives.
In the European Union, saccharin is also known by the E number (additive code) E954.
In the 1970's sacharine was demonstrated to cause bladder cancer in rats in a number of clinical trials. As a consequence, all food containing saccharin was labeled with a warning. In 1985, the American Medical Association concluded that bladder problems associated with saccharin were species-specific" The label was lifted in 2000 after more than 30 studies showed saccharin was safe for human consumption
The use of saccharin in pregnancy should be avoided. Saccharin has the ability to pass through the placenta, and it may remain in the fetal tissue, which is harmful for the unborn child. Saccharin is excreted in breast milk, hence nursing mothers should try and restrict the use of saccharin. In infants some side effects proposed by researchers are irritability and muscle dysfunction. This may be caused by saccharin in baby formula.
Saccharin side effects have been a popular topic of discussion and saccharin dangers are highly debated. Although unsupported, it has been claimed saccharin can cause allergic reactions such as headaches, diarrhoea and skin eruptions. This may be because saccharin belongs to the sulfonamide group of compounds.
Saccharin has been long thought to not lead to weight gain. However trials performed in 2008 demonstrated saccharin actually increased body weight and calorie intake in rats. Saccharin physiologically changed the correlation between sweet tastes and caloric intake in the brain, which caused overeating. Both saccharin and aspartame can trigger the release of insulin in humans,presumed to be as a result of its taste,
Studies in rats during the early 1970's linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer in rodents. Warning labels were mandated for products containing saccharin. After considerable research (more than 30 different studies) it was determined the development of cancer was species specific because of a unique combination of high pH, high calcium phosphate, and high protein levels in rodent urine. This led to production of microcrystals that damaged the lining cells and overproduction of new epithelial cells as a repair response. Further to recommendations by the American Medical Associationin 1985 the U.S. government lifted the warning label requirement in 2000. While it is most unlikely that the same conditions could occur in humans, we should avoid ingesting saccharin where this can be avoided.