saccharin (săkˈərĭn) [key], C7H5NSO3, white, crystalline, aromatic compound. It was discovered accidentally by I. Remsen and C. Fahlberg in 1879. Pure saccharin tastes several hundred times as sweet as sugar. It is not readily soluble in water, but its sodium salt, which is sold commercially, dissolves readily. Saccharin has no nutritional value and is excreted unchanged by the body. It is used as a sweetener by persons who must limit their consumption of sugar. Despite the fact that saccharin causes cancer in laboratory rats, its ban was rescinded after a public outcry. In 1984 the World Health Organization suggested an intake limit of 2.5 mg/day per kg bodyweight. Other nonnutritive artificial sweeteners include sodium cyclamate and aspartame.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.