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Why you should check your labels for saccharin before you buy?

Discovered in 1879 by a John Hopkins University scientist, Saccharine is an artificial sweetener with no nutritional value whatsoever. Made in the laboratory in the form of crystalline, white powder, this substance is commonly used as a substitute for sugar as it doesn’t contain carbs or calories.

It is around 200-700 times sweeter than the regular table sugar, so it is added in very small quantities to sweeten foods, but it usually has a bitter, metallic aftertaste.

Many food manufacturers and producers make much use of saccharin because it does not react with other ingredients in food chemically and has a very long shelf life, making it ultimately safe for consumption even after months and years of production.

The popularity of it increased as a result of the shortages of sugar in the First World War and is widely used by dieticians because of its ‘calorie-free’ nature.  

WHY IS SACCHARIN BAD?

Right from its development, there have been so many controversies concerning this sweetener. Although usage is approved in many countries and is very beneficial to diabetic patients as it doesn’t increase their blood sugar levels, research has shown that saccharin has some health concerns.

Saccharin Can Cause an Allergic Reaction

Because of the presence of sulfonamides, this substance can cause individuals to experience extreme allergic reactions which include symptoms like difficulty in breathing, headache, diarrhea and skin rash on several parts of the body.

Infants may also respond to saccharin by having allergic reactions, as research has shown that when it is used in baby formulas it may cause muscle dysfunction and irritability.

May cause cancer

Research has shown that saccharin may be a possible carcinogen (an agent that causes cancer) and needs to be investigated to show its potential effect. However, there has not been a clear link between usage and cancer development in humans.

Studies have shown that saccharin can function as a carcinogen in rats and mice that results in bladder cancer. Experts have therefore claimed that people should avoid saccharin as observational research is not enough to rule out any side effect.

Studies have shown that saccharin can function as a carcinogen in rats and mice that results in bladder cancer. Experts have therefore claimed that people should avoid saccharin as observational research is not enough to rule out any side effect.

May result in weight gain

Although dieticians have claimed that since saccharin does not contain calories that can be absorbed by the intestines, leading to weight gain, studies have revealed that it may trigger a release of insulin from the pancreas.

The job of insulin is to move sugar to different body tissues that can use it for energy. When artificial sugar enters the bloodstream, insulin doesn’t perform optimally, thereby decreasing its sensitivity. This may result in an increased risk of a person developing diabetes.

HOW DOES SACCHARIN END UP IN PRODUCTS?

Since saccharin is more than 200 times sweeter than regular sugar, most food manufacturers add it in small quantities to get that sweet taste. Also, it can be blended with other low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame.

PRODUCTS IT IS USUALLY FOUND IN

The common source of saccharin is artificially sweetened drinks. It is also found in jams, chewing gums, canned fruit, dessert topping, salad dressings, etc. Saccharine is very unstable when heated, so it is often sprinkled on baked goods.

HOW DO I IDENTIFY SACCHARIN ON A PRODUCT LABEL?

Due to the controversy in the 1970s, most products containing saccharine had a warning label that reads: 

USE OF THIS PRODUCT MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS SACCHARINE WHICH HAS BEEN DETERMINED TO CAUSE CANCER IN LABORATORY ANIMALS’

However, since the ban has been lifted in many countries, consumers should just check the ingredient section for saccharine and other artificial sweeteners.

Alternatives to Saccharin

If you want a sweetener that does raise your blood sugar levels or contribute to cavities then try stevia. Stevia does have an aftertaste to some people but its considerably sweeter so a drop of stevia can sweeten a cup of beverage.

FINALLY...

It’s understandable that there is a desire to reduce the consumption of sugar. It can cause weight gain, contribute to diabetes and cause cavities. However, we must be cautious that in our quest to reducing sugar that we don’t substitute it with something as bad or worse.

Saccharin is sweet but it has a dark side
Niki
Author: Niki

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