This is probably the best known of artificial sweetening substances. Chemically it is not a sugar, but a synthetic chemical benzoyl sulphonic amide or benzoic sulfinide made by treating toluene (a distillate of coal tar) with sulphuric acid. Saccharin was first discovered by chance in 1879, when a chemist working with these chemicals noticed his finger tasted sweet. Methods for producing it were patented in 1894. It is intensely sweet (estimates range to as much as seven times as sweet as cane sugar), but it has no food value and passes unchanged through the body. It is available commercially, most often in the form of tiny tablets, each being enough to sweeten a cup of coffee or tea. Some say that saccharin is harmful to the digestive system, and its taste is certainly inferior to that of sugar. It persists in the saliva, and gives a long-lasting and cloying sweetness in the mouth which sugar does not.*
What is Saccharin and How Do You Use It? Photo Gallery
Since the invention of saccharin, other non-sugar sweetening substances have been produced.
Some of these, such as dulcin or sucrol and P-4000 (Verkade’s compound) are not so virulently sweet as saccharin and do not persist to the same extent in the mouth, but they are toxic, at least in the opinion of the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Cyclamate sodium has the advantage that it withstands cooking, but is also under fire as potentially toxic. In general one should avoid using this sort of substance. One is in the hands of medical and health experts who not only hold conflicting opinions but cannot at the outset predict that a substance, whilst seemingly innocuous, will not have harmful effects when taken over a number of years. There are unfortunate people who cannot for health reasons avoid using artificial sweeteners. The solution for the future perhaps is to train our children to have less of a sweet tooth, and maybe we should stop replacing the less sweet milk sugar with sweet cane sugar in babies’ bottles. (See Sugars.)