Changing Perceptions of Artificial Sweeteners

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Ideas about artificial sweeteners and health have changed dramatically over the last century. Much of this change can be attributed to how the United States has thought about sugar. In the early twentieth century, when mothers were advised to feed their children sugar because of its high calorie (energy) content and low cost, artificial sweeteners were soundly rejected. “It ought to be a penal offense,” declared one New York Times reader when he discovered that manufacturers had been secretly replacing the more expensive “cane syrups” with cheaper saccharin in carbonated beverages. Only Teddy Roosevelt’s personal use of saccharin kept it on the market during the Progressive Era, and even then it was deemed a medicine suitable only for diabetics or those on calorie-restricted diets.