sweetOver the years, I have swung back and forth about “The Atkins Diet”. When I first read about Dr. Atkins’ ideas, I thought they were too radical. After all, replacing all carbohydrates with protein and fat seemed a bit dramatic – not to mention that following his plan meant that I couldn’t eat a lot of the carbohydrates I loved (biscuits, baked potatoes, sweet rolls, and so on).

The diet plan itself pointed out that by following it a person would develop ketosis. This isn’t a healthy state – it indicates an imbalance and an acidic condition that I long believed to be unhealthy.   How could a good eating plan cause me to give up so much and unbalance my basic chemistry?

I researched more and found that the acid imbalance was temporary – and not as dramatically dangerous as I had thought. The plan had merit – to a degree. It still called for people to remove what I believed to be a vital part of the nutritional “pyramid” – carbohydrates.

Good idea or bad idea? Atkins persisted and thousands of people followed his plan – with success and without harm. I tried it – slightly modified to allow a small amount of whole grain bread. It worked. Weight came off and I felt healthy. Yet, I could not personally endorse the entire Atkins plan.

Atkins has been vindicated by some of the more notable medical studies. It appears that people really would do better in many ways if they replace their carbohydrates with healthy portions of protein and good fats.

Our family tries to favor protein and fat in our diet and we started using some of the low carb bars for snacks – or to replace a meal when we needed nutrition in a hurry. We settled on the Atkins brand of bars – they taste good, had few carbohydrates, offered a large amount of protein and they bore the Atkins name. He had been correct on the whole issue so we concluded his bars were the best available. Their sweetness comes – not from sugar – but from sucralose (Splenda).

Here’s where the story goes sour. Studies show that there are serious potential health risks from ingesting sucralose. You see, this very sweet material is made in a laboratory (that in itself doesn’t make it bad). It is made by replacing certain pieces of the sucrose molecule with chlorine. Sucralose is a chlorocarbon (so is carbon tetrachloride). The industry talking heads say that the chlorine is so tightly bound to the basic molecule that there is no danger. But the fact remains that people who use sucralose in their diet sometimes experience serious effects – directly related to the chemical.

Why not use Splenda? Well, research in animals has shown that sucralose can cause many problems such as:

  • Shrunken thymus glands (up to 40 percent shrinkage)
  • Enlarged liver and kidneys
  • Atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus
  • Reduced growth rate
  • Decreased red blood cell count
  • Hyperplasia of the pelvis
  • Extension of the pregnancy period
  • Aborted pregnancy
  • Decreased fetal body weights and placental weights
  • Diarrhea

The evidence is obvious: Sucralose can be dangerous!

So, what does this mean to me? Well, I still think there is a lot of credibility in the Atkins approach to diet. I still don’t believe that anyone would be healthy or happy without some carbohydrates in their diet. I do think we all would be better off with far fewer carbohydrates. I still hold that modest amounts of grain is acceptable. I WANT a piece of toast and a bag of popcorn once in a while (yes, corn is a grain – not a vegetable). Not every day – but occasionally. That is a very real part of a healthy diet – when done with moderation. What’s moderate?  How about once or twice a month! That’s plenty of MODERATE for me.

I will eat more protein and good fat – and less carbohydrates and fewer grains. I refuse to use any artificial sweeteners. No, aspartame (that’s a killer in itself). No, saccharin. No sucralose (Splenda). The Atkins bars are gone for good (sweetened with sucralose) – and I’ll carefully search the labeled content of the foods I purchase.  Sadly, the products on the health food store shelves almost alwayscontain sucralose. Even “healthy people” demand that their snacks and bars and drinks be sweet – even if it can kill them!