The metabolism of intense sweeteners

Xenobiotica. Oct-Nov 1986;16(10-11):1057-71. doi: 10.3109/00498258609038983.


Three organic acids (saccharin, acesulfame-K and cyclamate) are used or have been used extensively as intense sweeteners. Once absorbed from the gut they are eliminated, largely in the urine, without undergoing metabolism. Early studies using radiolabelled saccharin indicated the existence of limited metabolism, but this was not confirmed by later more extensive studies using highly purified compound. Metabolism could not be induced by a variety of pretreatments. Following an initial report of the presence of traces of cyclohexylamine in the urines of subjects given cyclamate, it was shown that chronic administration of the sweetener caused the induction of extensive metabolism. The metabolism, which showed wide inter- and intra-individual variability was performed the gut microflora. The peptide sweeteners (aspartame and thaumatin) are metabolized to their constituent amino acids in the gastro intestinal tract, prior to absorption. As such they are incorporated into normal intermediary metabolism and their low-calorie applications derive from their intense sweetness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Sweetening Agents / metabolism*


  • Sweetening Agents