Will Low-Carb Diets Ultimately Make Us Fat?
Many low-carb diets emphasize eating only "good" carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but supermarkets are being flooded with low-carb junk food.
Food Fight continued...
The sugar alcohols in many low-carb products -- namely
sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol -- particularly concern Roger Clemens, PhD, a
food science communicator for the Institute of Food Technologists. Although the
sweeteners have been shown to be generally safe, Clemens worries about the
presence of the sugar alcohols in so many foods.
"The sweeteners were never intended for larger
quantities," he says, noting that some people may experience stomachaches,
gas, and diarrhea with greater consumption of such products.
Other low-carb ingredients such as fiber and soy can also cause
gastrointestinal distress, warns Dorfman.
License to Eat
There are those who believe that the low-fat movement of the
1990s actually encouraged weight gain. Because people thought they were eating
low-fat products, they reportedly ate more. Some food experts fear the same
trend could happen with low-carb goods.
Katherine Tallmadge, also a spokesperson for the American
Dietetic Association, is no fan of low-carb diets. Yet she does say the one
good thing about them is that they initially kept people away from processed
"Unfortunately, the trend is starting to undo itself,"
she says, pointing to the wave of low-carb junk food. "The one benefit of
that diet is being undone with all of these low-carb products."
The folks at Atkins say they cannot account for other low-carb
products, but foods with their company name are scientifically tested to meet
the diet's requirements.
Plus, Atkins products are not meant to replace whole foods,
says Matt Spolar, vice president of product technology. "Idealistically,
yes, people should only focus on healthy fruits and vegetables, whole foods,
and healthy meats," he says. "But the American consumers go up and down
the aisles of the supermarket and buy other products. We want to provide them
with an alternative."
When buying low-carb goods, Dorfman suggests looking at the
food's total calorie content, total fat, fiber content (to avoid frequent
bathroom visits), and any substitutes such as soy and sweeteners.
It's also important to keep in mind that there is no
marketplace standard for low-carb products. The FDA is working on definitions
for the terms "low carb," "reduced carb," and
"carb-free." Until the agency comes up with a ruling, it's up to the
consumer to decipher the meaning of carb-conscious edibles.
Published Aug. 10, 2004.