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Survey Suggests Americans Tiring of Low-Carb Diets

July 15, 2004 -- How low-carb can you go? Not much further, a new marketing survey suggests.

Every day seems to bring another low-carb product to grocery shelves. Low-carb beer is old hat. Low-carb colas fight for our soft drink dollars. And who hasn't yet tried a low-carb candy bar?

More low-carb products are waiting in the wings. But their makers may have missed the boat, says Lee Smith, president of InsightExpress, an online research firm. A new study by InsightExpress shows that half of Americans who've tried low-carb diets have given them up. Only one in 10 of us are on low-carb diets, the survey shows. And the trend is down, not up.

"The peak of the low-carb trend may have happened," Smith tells WebMD. "The trend is for people to think they don't want to go on a low-carb diet. They are starting not to purchase the low-carb products that are entering the marketplace."

The low-carb craze has gone on for an unusually long time, says Don Montuori, editor for Packaged Fact Reports at, a market analysis company.

"Personally, I am shocked that the low-carb craze had such legs," Montuori tells WebMD. "On the one hand, the idea you can eat all the meat and eggs and cheese you want -- that is hard not to like. But no cookies or bread? We are a wheat-loving country. Processed wheats are the carbs we like to eat."

Carbs Fading From Consumer Radar?

The InsightExpress survey included a random sample of 500 people recruited over the Internet in a 48-hour period during early July 2004. The survey has an error range of plus or minus 4%.

Which nutritional traits do consumers think is important? According to the survey:

  • 40% consider a food's total calorie content.
  • 37% consider a food's total fat content.
  • 32% consider a food's calories from fat.
  • 31% consider a food's cholesterol content.
  • 30% consider a food's total carbohydrate content.
  • 29% consider a food's sodium content.
  • 19% consider a food's protein content.

Four out of five Americans have never been on a low-carb diet, the survey shows. Only one in five say they'd think about buying a low-carb product. And fewer than a third of survey respondents say they'd be more likely to buy a low-carb version of their favorite food.

"People have the perception that low-carb diets are not healthy, or that these diets may not help them control their weight," Smith says.

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