Cyclamates – a guide to artificial sweeteners

‘God looks after damn fools, children and chemists’, according to Dr Michael Sveda who discovered the sweetener cyclamate during a smoking break. The question is whether God watches over sweeteners as well. Cyclamates are allowed in the EU but completely banned in its homeland USA since 1970.

3 November 2020 •

In our series ‘Guide to arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers’, we have come to cycla­mate, which is the sec­ond old­est arti­fi­cial sweet­en­er on the mar­ket after sac­cha­rin. In Sweden, it was for a peri­od only allowed as a table sweet­en­er, due to the risk of oth­er­wise exceed­ing the accept­able dai­ly intake. As an adap­ta­tion to the EU, it is cur­rent­ly used for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, but the Swedish Food Agency still flags the risk of exces­sive consumption.

What are cyclamates?

Cyclamate or cycla­mates is the every­day name for the sweet­en­ers cyclam­ic acid, cal­ci­um and cycla­mate sodi­um which share the e‑number E 952. Cyclamates are viewed as non-ener­giz­ing sweet­en­ers. They are about 30 times sweet­er than sug­ar and are often com­bined with sac­cha­rin (E 954).

To get a good sug­ar-like taste, man­u­fac­tur­ers usu­al­ly mix 1 part sac­cha­rin with 10 parts cycla­mates (1:10). Of all the arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, this is the mix­ture that best mim­ics sug­ar dis­solved in water.

Acceptable daily intake

ADI stands for ‘accept­able dai­ly intake’ and is a mea­sure of how much we can con­sume a cer­tain sup­ple­ment every day with­out get­ting sick. The mea­sure is devel­oped after exper­i­ment­ing on ani­mals, usu­al­ly rats.

Cyclamates have an ADI of 7 mg per kilo­gram of body weight. In Sweden, the Swedish Food Agency express­es con­cern that dia­bet­ics may exceed the ADI on cycla­mates. Due to this con­cern, cycla­mates were for a time only approved as table sweeteners.

två personer som skålar med bruna glasflaskor

Excessive consumption

Even today, the Swedish Food Agency flags the risk of excess­ing set lim­its, but since 1999 Sweden have adapt­ed to EU rules that are more gen­er­ous to cycla­mates. In the EU Cyclamates are used in ice cream, bev­er­ages, desserts, jams and sweets, among oth­er things.

Cyclamates are often used in com­bi­na­tion with sac­cha­rin, which has an ADI of 5 mg per kilo­gram of body weight. Thus, sac­cha­rin has a low­er ADI than cycla­mates. Yet the same con­cern is not expressed that con­sumers will get too much sac­cha­rin. This is because sac­cha­rin is 500 times sweet­er than sug­ar, while cycla­mates are ‘only’ 30 times sweet­er than sug­ar. It sim­ply takes more cycla­mates than sac­cha­rin to achieve the same degree of sweet­ness in food.

Cyclamates are banned in the USA

In 1969, a study on rats was pre­sent­ed. The rats were allowed to drink a mix­ture of sac­cha­rin and cycla­mates (1:10). The amount they drank is equiv­a­lent to 350 cans a day for humans. Eight of the 240 rats devel­oped blad­der cancer.

As a result, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) imme­di­ate­ly banned cycla­mates in food but not in med­i­cines. One year lat­er, in 1970, after an inquiry in con­gress, cycla­mates were also banned in med­i­cine. It is a ban that still stands today despite sev­er­al attempts to adress it.

Dr Michael Sveda reject­ed the entire inves­ti­ga­tion and said that it was the sug­ar industry’s lob­by­ists who were behind it all.

Later, the National Cancer Institute, among oth­ers, con­duct­ed a study on 17 mon­keys who were allowed to drink the equiv­a­lent of 30 cans a day for 17 years with­out any of them becom­ing ill.

Cyclamates were discovered during a smoking break

Cyclamates were the sec­ond arti­fi­cial sweet­en­er invent­ed, after sac­cha­rin. It start­ed in 1939 when Dr Sveda was a doc­tor­al stu­dent at the University of Illinois and took a smok­ing brake in the lab­o­ra­to­ry. He dis­cov­ered that the cig­a­rette tast­ed sweet and began exam­in­ing bot­tles and cans in the lab­o­ra­to­ry until he found the source.

Long-awaited

When Dr Sveda start­ed work­ing for E.I DuPont de Nemours & Company (DuPont) the com­pa­ny got a patent on cyclam­ic acid, cal­ci­um cycla­mate and sodi­um cycla­mate under the umbrel­la term cycla­mates. They want­ed to use the sweet­ness of cycla­mates to hide the bit­ter taste in antibi­otics and in the sleep­ing pill pen­to­bar­bi­tal.

Cyclamates were approved as a sweet­en­er in the United States in 1951. There was great inter­est in the new sweet­en­er (before cycla­mates there had only been sac­cha­rin). Cyclamates were not as sweet as sac­cha­rin, and it was more expen­sive to make, but it did not have the metal­lic after­taste of saccharin.

The world’s first sugar-free soda was sweetened with cyclamates

The brew­er Hyman Hirsch was the ‘hon­orary vice pres­i­dent’ of the Jewish Sanitarium and Hospital for Chronic Diseases of Brooklyn, and he want­ed to offer patients a sug­ar-free soda. After many tests on cycla­mates as well as sac­cha­rin (both sep­a­rate­ly and in com­bi­na­tion), he chose to use cycla­mates as the product’s only sweet­en­er. In 1953, patients were able to taste No-Cal for the first time. The bev­er­age was avail­able with the flavours ‘gin­ger’ and ‘black cherries’.

tidningsreklam cola

Movie stars in the ads

Cola-Review-Jan-21-1970

No-Cal quick­ly became pop­u­lar and also began to be sold to the gen­er­al pub­lic. It was mar­ket­ed as a soda for peo­ple who want­ed to lose weight. Hollywood stars like Kim Novak and Jan Sterling were used in adver­tis­ing, and the suc­cess was total.

When cycla­mates were banned in the United States in 1969/​1970, sug­ar-free soft drinks had become a major indus­try. Now the man­u­fac­tur­ers had to quick­ly replace cycla­mates with some­thing else. But the only thing avail­able was sac­cha­rin. There were no oth­er sweeteners.

Low-calorie

Saccharin also had a metal­lic after­taste, which was hid­den behind flavours such as grape­fruit and lemon. You could also hide the metal­lic taste from sac­cha­rin by mix­ing it with reg­u­lar sug­ar. Then they stopped call­ing the drinks ‘sug­ar-free’ or ‘calo­rie-free’. Instead, the new term ‘low calo­rie’ was introduced.

Benefits of Cyclamates

  • It is a calo­rie-free sweetener.
  • It is 30 times sweet­er than sugar.
  • It has no strong off-taste.
  • It is sta­ble and has a long shelf life.
  • It can with­stand heat (can be used in pas­teur­ized products)

Disadvantages of cyclamates

  • It is ‘only’ 30–80 times sweet­er than sugar.
  • According to orga­ni­za­tions like the Swedish Food Agency, there is a risk that you may exceed the accept­ed dai­ly intake.
  • It is banned in some mar­kets (e.g USA and South Korea) which makes it a stig­ma­tiz­ing ingredient.

Summary

Cyclamic acid, cal­ci­um cycla­mate and sodi­um cycla­mate share E‑number 952 and are called cycla­mates. It is an arti­fi­cial sweet­en­er that is 30 times sweet­er than sug­ar. It was approved as a sweet­en­er in the USA in 1951 but was com­plete­ly banned in 1970. It is how­ev­er an approved ingre­di­ent in the EU. Cyclamates are often com­bined with sac­cha­rin on mar­kets that allow both of these sweeteners.

Try sweetened fibres

Our solu­tion is called sweet­ened fibres. It can replace reg­u­lar sug­ar as well as arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. With the help of ste­via, sug­ar alco­hols and dietary fibres, we can recre­ate the taste and tex­ture of sug­ar with­out the dis­ad­van­tages of sugar.

Sweetened fibres are avail­able as pow­der, gran­ule or syrup. It can be stored, trans­port­ed and han­dled like reg­u­lar sug­ar with­out any change in rou­tines or processes.

Take a look at our range of ser­vices or con­tact us if you want to know more about how we can help you.

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