Atkins, Nutrasweet, and Sucralose

posted Feb 12, 2004

In his book, Dr. Atkins recommended against consuming Nutrasweet while trying to lose weight, citing studies that suggest Nutrasweet inhibits weight loss. (I don't there's actually anything specific to the Atkins diet in that regard.) He recommends Sucralose be used instead, which as artificial sweeteners go is pretty cool: It can be used to cook with, it definately doesn't taste exactly like sugar but it's easily the closest of any artificial sweetener I've tried, and of course it has no calories in it.

So you might, like me, wonder how significant the putative Nutrasweet effect is. Of course it will vary from person to person, but I thought I'd share my experience here.

One disclaimer is in order, though: I do not have a normal reaction to Nutrasweet. Nutrasweet has been accused of causing pretty much every medical condition you can think of (a leading indicator of quackery at work), and I don't put too much stock in that, since if it were even 10% as bad as claimed we'd all know. But as the body breaks it down, one of the by-products is formaldehyde. Like any other chemical, certain levels of it can be tolerated and may well be produced naturally, but I have an unusual reaction to formaldehyde: It makes me uncontrollably sleepy, like an anaesthetic. I now know that the reason I slept through biology class and AI class was because there was too much formaldehyde in the room (the room I had AI in was newly carpeted with carpet preserved with formaldehyde, which is common). Nutrasweet also does this to me, although it has a lesser effect over a longer time; drinking a lot makes it very difficult for me to get up in the morning and causes me to end up sleeping in. Thus, my experiences may or may not be directly applicable to a normal person.

One of my biggest problems with dieting is the drink issue. Obviously, soft drinks are right out. I don't like coffee or tea. I don't like hot drinks at all anyhow. That leaves diet drinks and water. I've tried the all water route, and call me a spoiled 21st century Westerner if you like, but after three or four days of water it starts to get really tiresome. (I suppose drinking things other then water, mostly alcohol, isn't really that new.) That makes diet drinks the obvious candidate.

So I had been drinking the standard diet drink fare: Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke, various flavors of each, etc. But as I mentioned above, the Nutrasweet is bad for me, even absent the potential weight effects. I had thought that I didn't really have a viable choice, but I started poking around on the web and there is one major brand of diet soft drink that uses Sucralose instead of Nutrasweet, and that is Diet Rite, made by the same company as 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, and other such nationally-recognized brands.

I quit Nutrasweet-based beverages about two weeks ago, and it took a couple of days to flush the Nutrasweet out of my system. However, once it did, I resumed weight loss at a nice pace, about half a pound a day, and this without particularly trying to count my carbs, just keeping them low in general. Just by changing my Nutrasweet intake, I went from pretty-much stalled to losing weight again.

Now that's a worthwhile switch.

If you are dieting, Atkins or otherwise, I recommend that you try dropping Nutrasweet for a week or two and switching to Diet Rite. Your milage may vary, but it probably won't hurt.

So far, I've seen four flavors:

Good luck.


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