Could “cancer causing” Sweetener Actually Be a Treatment?

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By: Krystle Crossman

Saccharin has gotten a bad rap over the last few years. Researchers have claimed that it causes cancer and should not be eaten. However some new studies are showing that this artificial sweetener could actually be helping scientists in their fight to cure cancer.

Back in the 70s scientists conducted experiments with lab rats and saccharin. They found a link between the consumption of the saccharin and bladder cancer in these rats. Due to FDA regulations these findings forced the makers of Sweet N’ Low to put a warning on the labels that it had the potential to cause cancer. The problem with this is that all of the studies that the scientists did were on rats and not humans. As the years went on researchers did further testing and found that the chemical make-up of a rat was the reason that they developed the cancer, not solely because of the saccharin. Rats have a higher phosphate, higher pH, and higher protein level than humans do in their urine. What happened when they ingested the sweetener was that it stuck to the excess protein that they had in their urine and caused abnormal cells which turned into cancer.

As more years passed the National Toxicology Program determined that saccharin was in no way a human carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency removed it from their carcinogen list in 2010 because of these findings. Robert McKenna, PhD, of the University of Florida did extensive research with how saccharin bound with the proteins. What he found was that the saccharin actually blocked the protein carbonic anhydrase IX. This protein is responsible for the rapid growth of aggressive cancer cells. The saccharin has been proven to help block this protein in cancer cells and slow down the growth of the disease. Saccharin-based drugs have shown that they stunt the growth of the cancer cells, not cause them. They also showed no damage to healthy tissue as there are no healthy tissues in the human body other than in the GI tract that have carbonic anhydrase IX. More research is being done on this new treatment and clinical trials on animals may be in the works soon.

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