The artificial sweetener saccharin has been given a bad rap and most people try to avoid it at all costs, however, a new study suggest maybe you shouldn’t.
It all began in the 1970s, when scientists conducting a study discovered a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in rats. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required the manufacturer to put a warning in all packaging and so, the artificial sweetener had a stigma.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that the product was somewhat validated, when the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer took a closer look at all available information concerning saccharin and determined it did not cause cancer in humans.
Later on, in 2010, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed saccharin from its list of hazardous substances. Now, in a shocking turn of events, a new study indicates that the artificial sweetener can actually be helpful in fighting cancer.
The new information, released on Monday at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, indicated the artificial sweetener can be useful in developing treatments for aggressive cancers by deactivating a protein found to facilitate the spread of cancer, according to a report in Yahoo News.
The study was conducted by Robert McKenna, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Florida.
“It never ceases to amaze me how a simple molecule, such as saccharin — something many people put in their coffee every day — may have untapped uses, including as a possible lead compound to target aggressive cancers. This result opens up the potential to develop a novel anti-cancer drug that is derived from a common condiment that could have a lasting impact on treating several cancers.”
Using X-ray Crystallography — a scientific method used to determine the arrangement of atoms of a crystalline solid in three dimensional space — McKenna studied how saccharin sticks to and neutralizes a protein called carbonic anhydrase IX. This protein is responsible for the growth of some of the deadliest cancers, including breast, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, and brain cancer, many of which are incurable.
McKenna and his team of researchers found that the artificial sweetener, saccharin, helps to prevent the growth of these cancers and are attracted to carbonic anhydrase IX, which encourages the spread of the disease throughout the body.
Since carbonic anhydrase IX is only found in the digestive tract in humans, the use of saccharin based drugs should not interfere with the healthy tissues elsewhere, the study revealed. Because of the encouraging findings, McKenna is currently testing the artificial sweetener-based drugs on breast and liver cancer cells and if successful, the study will move to animal trials.
“This result opens up the potential to develop a novel anticancer drug that is derived from a common condiment that could have a lasting impact on treating several cancers,” McKenna stated.
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