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Raysonho via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

The Sweet and Not-So-Sweet History of Saccharin

Raysonho via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

When it was first introduced to the public, saccharin seemed to be a miracle. The substance is about 300 times as sweet as sugar, and it doesn't have any calories. What’s not to love about that?

But not everything in saccharin's history is sweet. The story of the sugar substitute begins in the labs of Johns Hopkins University, where Dr. Ira Remsen became the first chemistry professor in 1876. One of his earliest laboratory residents was postdoctoral student Constantin Fahlberg, a Russian chemist whom Remsen met when the H.W. Perot Import Firm hired both of them to research sugar impurities.

In 1878, Remsen and Fahlberg were working on various products derived from coal tar. One night that June, Fahlberg worked late in the lab and went home to his supper in a hurry, neglecting to wash his hands. The bread he ate was unusually sweet, and so was his drink. Even his napkin tasted sweet. Eventually Fahlberg realized that he was sipping his drink from an area of his cup that his fingers had touched. He tasted his thumb, and then ran back to the laboratory to work on the newly discovered “coal tar sugar,” which he named saccharin.

Fahlberg and Remsen co-authored research papers on saccharin over the next few years, but Fahlberg struck out on his own when he obtained a German patent for the compound in 1884, followed by a series of American patents. Remsen was upset that Fahlberg applied for the patent on his own: He wasn’t all that interested in the commercial production of saccharin, but felt it important that his contribution to the discovery be acknowledged. Remsen was especially incensed at how Fahlberg’s account of the discovery neglected to even mention the lead researcher.

Fahlberg opened a saccharin factory near Magdeburg, Germany, and another in the U.S. While saccharin sold well enough to make Fahlberg a wealthy man, sales went mostly to food manufacturers who used it as an additive. Consumers bought saccharin, too, but not as much, since regular sugar was readily available and didn't have the metallic aftertaste of saccharin.

Saccharin had its fans, however—including one in the White House. Theodore Roosevelt was president when the Pure Food and Drug Act, designed to protect the public from food adulteration and unsafe ingredients, was passed in 1906. Harvey Wiley, the chief chemist for the USDA, was charged with investigating dangerous foods. But when he broached the subject of the safety of saccharin in 1908, he hit a sore spot with the president. Roosevelt’s doctor had prescribed a sugar-free diet, and Roosevelt used saccharin in its place. Wiley described saccharin as “… a coal tar product totally devoid of food value and extremely injurious to health."

Roosevelt was insulted. His response: "Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot." The remark proved to be the end of the two men's personal relationship.

In 1912, the use of saccharin was banned in the manufacture of processed foods, but it was still sold to consumers as a stand-alone product. Diabetics and people wishing to lose weight regularly purchased saccharin—but when a sugar shortage caused a massive price increase during World War I, its use really exploded. The same thing happened during World War II.

Meanwhile, the question of saccharin’s safety wasn't fully settled. In the 1950s, another sugar substitute called cyclamate was approved for sale. A combination of cyclamate and saccharin proved very popular, in part because the cyclamate canceled out the bitter aftertaste of the saccharin. The new combination led to a boom in diet soft drinks, until two 1968 studies indicating that cyclamate caused bladder cancer in laboratory rats prompted the FDA to ban the sweetener.

National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A 1970 study showed some disturbing evidence of saccharin also causing bladder cancer in rats, and the substance was banned in 1977. This time, food manufacturers, lobbyists, and consumers immediately fought back, wary of losing their last artificial sweetener. The ban was soon changed to a warning, and labels were added to products that contained saccharin.

However, later studies showed that the increased incidence of bladder cancer was only applicable to rats, due to their particular biology. The results of the earlier studies were not transferable to humans. In 2000, saccharin was taken off the government’s list of known carcinogens, and the warning labels were discontinued. While other sugar substitutes have since been developed, saccharin still remains one of the most popular. Sold under the brand names Sweet'N Low, Sweet Twin, NectaSweet, and others, it accounted for 70 percent of the world demand for artificial sweeteners as of 2001, with world sales totaling hundreds of millions of dollars [PDF].

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5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality
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Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.

1. HOW THEY ANSWER BASIC MONEY QUESTIONS.

Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.

2. WHAT THEY’RE WATCHING AND READING.

If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!

3. WHERE THEY GET THEIR FOOD.

You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.

4. WHETHER THEY’RE VOICING MONEY CONCERNS.

Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.

5. HOW THEY HANDLE THE BILL.

Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.

REMEMBER THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR TALKING.

While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

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Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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