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Saccharin is an artificially prepared sweetener that is often used to sweeten drinks,baked goods, confections, toothpaste and medicines. It has no nutritional energy, and the sweetness level is more than that of sucrose. The basic substance contained in it is benzoic sulfilimine. Sweet’N Low is a popular brand of the sweetener in the United States.

History of Saccharin

The sweetener was originally made by Constantin Fahlberg in 1878. Constantin Fahlberg was a chemist working on the subject of derivatives of coal tar at Johns Hopkins University. He discovered the sweetness accidentally when a substance he had been working with during the day remained stuck on his hand, which he happened to taste in the evening.

Fahlberg and Remsen wrote about benzoic sulfimide in the years 1879 and 1880. Fahlberg later patented the production processes, much to the annoyance of Remsen who felt he also deserved credit for the discovery.

Commercial production of this sweetener started later on, and its popularity got a boost during the sugar shortage of the World War I. It became more popular in the 1960s and 1970s amongst people on dieting, as it is a calorie free sweetener.

Upon introduction, use of bemzoic sulfilimine sweetener was highly debated as some people claimed it was a coal tar product with no food value that could be harmful to health. But research over the years has lifted these doubts, and currently the product is legally used in most countries.

Benzoic Sulfilimine Variations

Saccharin is often mixed with other sweeteners. A sweetener containing 10 parts of cyclamate and 1 part of saccharin is commonly used in countries where both the sweeteners are approved by the law, and the mixture ensures that the after-tastes of both are masked by each other.

It is often used with aspartame as a sweetener in diet soda, as it retains the sweetness of the drink even if aspartame does not due to its shorter shelf life.

Benefits of Saccharin

  • The sweetener passes undigested through the system and hence is used to sweeten foods and drinks for diabetic people. It is known to trigger insulin release due to its sweet taste.
  • Though not stable on subjection to heat, it does not react with other ingredients of the food it is added to.
  • It sweetens dishes without adding calories to it, hence is a preferred choice among dieters. It thus helps people lose weight and hence reduce risk of various diseases while also maintaining an attractive appearance.


The chemical formula for the sweetener is C7H5NO3S and it is was originally prepared with toluene.

Though usually consumed as a sodium salt, saccharin is also taken as a calcium salt by people who want to decrease sodium intake.