Ira Remsen, born 1846, founder of American Chemical Journal, made life sweet for millions when he discovered saccharin.
“Sweeteners are not no-calorie per se, but you use so little of them,” says Diane Stadler, research assistant professor and bionutritionist at Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland. “You only need minuscule amounts to reach the same sweetening power as sucrose,” so sweeteners are considered virtually noncaloric.
Of the five sweeteners currently approved as food additives by most national health agencies, saccharin and aspartame have the longest history on the market and have received perhaps the most attention in the health and safety debate.
Saccharin, the oldest commercial sweetener, was discovered by scientists at Johns Hopkins University in 1879. According to Eric Walters, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science, in Chicago, whose research has focused on sweeteners, a Hopkins researcher accidentally spilled lab material on his hand, then noticed an unaccountable sweet taste while eating dinner that night.
The material was saccharin, a heterocyclic compound derived from toluene or methyl anthranilate that tastes 300 times sweeter than sucrose. Saccharin was first sold in the U.S. from the late 1890s to the 1940s in tablet form. It was introduced in granulated form as the tabletop sweetener Sweet’N Low in 1957, says Abraham I. Bakal, president of ABIC International Consultants and representative of Cumberland Packing Corp., the makers of the signature pink packets.
Visit “What’s That Stuff” to read more about artificial sweeteners.
Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2004 American Chemical Society