Is Saccharin Safe During Pregnancy? Side Effects and More

Saccharin is an artificial sweetener commonly found in Sweet’ N Low, amongst other sugar replacements and food products. Artificial sweeteners like saccharin may seem like an excellent replacement for those looking to avoid sugar and reduce caloric intake. However, saccharin may not always be safe for pregnant women.

World health organizations and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have declared saccharin a safe artificial sweetener for all individuals, including pregnant women. However, pregnant women must exhibit caution since saccharin is only safe for pregnancy in small amounts. 

As one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, it is challenging to decide if you should consume saccharin during your pregnancy or not. Let’s dive in and discuss saccharin’s safety and potential side effects during pregnancy.

Is Saccharin Safe When Pregnant? 

Saccharin is a sweetener approved by the FDA as “Generally Recognized As Safe,” or GRAS. The GRAS designation means that the product is unlikely to cause adverse effects when consumed.

Saccharin, a non-nutritive sweetener, is present in Sweet’ N Low, Sugar Twin, Sweet Twin, and others. A non-nutritive sweetener is a sugar substitute with little to no nutrients or calories (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

Found in the beloved pink packet, saccharin is 200 to 700 times sweeter than regular sucrose or table sugar (source: Cleveland Clinic).

With such sweetness, less saccharin is needed when compared to regular white sugar. Bear in mind that saccharin doesn’t just come in packets, as a sweetener on its own.

saccharin sweetener crystals in a bowl

Saccharin can often be found in jellies, jams, baked desserts, soft drinks, canned fruit, and even toothpaste and medications (source: diabetes.co.uk). Therefore it’s a good idea to check labels on these types of products, to effectively monitor your saccharin intake during pregnancy.

To ensure safety, pregnant women must follow the acceptable daily intake (ADI) when it comes to all non-nutritive sweeteners, such as saccharin.

The ADI is the recommended intake set by the leading global health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint Expert Committee of Food Additives of the Food and Agricultural Organization. 

The ADI for saccharin is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (source: Canadian Family Physician).

So, for example, for a woman who weighs 132 pounds (60 kilograms), the acceptable amount of saccharin daily would be 300 mg. For reference, a typical Sweet’ N Low packet contains 36 milligrams of saccharin (source: the University of Alabama at Birmingham). That equates to almost nine packets of Sweet’ N Low daily!

Therefore, in appropriate amounts, saccharin consumption does not seem to pose any risks to the mother or baby’s health during pregnancy (source: Canadian Family Physician). 

What Are the Effects of Saccharin During Pregnancy? Is it Dangerous?

When a pregnant woman consumes saccharin, evidence shows that the compound crosses into the placenta and can even stay present in the fetal tissue depending on the amount consumed (source: American Pregnancy Association).

However, studies in humans and animals have not demonstrated any adverse maternal or fetal side effects from saccharin intake, even well beyond the acceptable daily intake (ADI) mentioned above.

saccharin artificial sweetener in a spoon

For example, in an animal study with exposure to up to 400 times the ADI of humans, no malformations or adverse side effects occurred (source: Canadian Family Physician). Another study found no higher risk of spontaneous abortion in pregnant women who consumed saccharin versus those who did not. 

On the other hand, many sources recommend against saccharin consumption for pregnant women due to the possibility of an allergic reaction (source: diabetes.co.uk).

As a sulfonamide, saccharin can cause an allergic reaction with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, skin irritation, headache, and diarrhea. Therefore, it is important to monitor for the onset of an allergic reaction when consuming saccharin.

Overall, artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, are safe to consume during pregnancy as long as the amount is within the recommended limits. Pregnant women must be aware of their saccharin intake and total artificial sweetener intake, including aspartame, stevia, and neotame. 

I hope you found this information helpful in determining how to include artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, into your diet during pregnancy.

If you use artificial sweeteners often, you might also want to read our articles on xylitol, Sucralose, aspartame, and monk fruit, too. 

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Amy Kaczor, MS, RD

Amy Kaczor is a Registered Dietitian and full-time freelance writer based out of Chicago, Illinois. She is passionate about nutrition, health, and wellness, plus writing and sharing evidence-based information.

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