The History and Controversies of Artificial Sweeteners

TLDR Artificial sweeteners have a long history, starting with lead sugar in ancient Rome and progressing to saccharin, cyclamate, aspartame, and other popular alternatives to sugar. While they have been extensively tested and show no evidence of a link to cancer, there is ongoing concern about their impact on obesity and other health effects.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 Artificial sweeteners were developed as alternatives to sugar, with the very first one being lead sugar, a substance created by the ancient Romans that was known for causing lead poisoning.
02:08 In 1879, Constantine Fahlberg discovered the compound saccharin while working with coal tar, which is 550 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories, and went on to produce it on an industrial scale in Germany.
04:03 Saccharin was initially used as a cheaper alternative to sugar, and despite concerns about its safety and toxicity, it was not banned due to President Theodore Roosevelt's support, and it went through a series of government flip-flops before eventually being labeled as potentially hazardous to health.
05:52 Cyclomate, the second major artificial sweetener, was approved as safe in 1958 but later banned in 1969 due to a study that found a link between cyclomate and bladder tumors in rats.
07:50 Aspartame, one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, was approved for general use in 1981 and is used in Diet Coke and Coke Zero, while Superlose is the most potent artificial sweetener, 1,000 times sweeter than sugar.
09:49 Artificial sweeteners, including Togatose, Acesulfame, Stevia, and sugar alcohols, have been extensively tested and show no evidence of a link to cancer, but there is concern about their effect on obesity.
11:29 Artificial sweeteners are a multi-billion dollar global industry, but their potential link to obesity and other health effects is still inconclusive.
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