Low-Carb Products May Jeopardize Weight Loss Efforts
May 10, 2004 -- It's Snackwells all over again: They were
low-fat so we wolfed them down, ignoring the high calorie count. Now, low-carb
products could likewise sabotage our weight loss efforts, according to a new
Low-carb versions of comfort foods -- bread, pasta, and ice
cream -- often contain more fat and calories than regular versions, says the
June issue of Consumer Reports.
According to the report, 930 low carb food products have been
introduced to the U.S. food market in the last five years. The products are
aimed at the growing number of Americans trying to lose weight by cutting
carbs. But there's a catch.
"Many of the low-carb food products now flooding
supermarkets may in fact be cheating -- consumers, that is -- by undermining
the weight loss they hope to achieve," the report says. The FDA is
scrambling to figure out how to address this issue.
Among their findings:
- "Low-carb" labels are meaningless. In manufacturing low-carb
products, sugars are replaced with "unnaturally high concentrations" of
sugar alcohols, refined grains, and starches -- all of which are carbohydrates
and contribute to caloric intake.
Because these "replacement carbs" move through the
small intestine without getting absorbed, manufacturers subtract them from the
carb content. That's the "net carbs" number listed on the product
However, that net carbs number is based on research done with
whole foods (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) -- which have a very
different composition and calorie content.
The original low-carb weight loss programs -- Atkins and South
Beach -- work when people restrict carb-laden, high-calorie foods like bread,
pasta, rice, soft drinks, potato chips, cookies, and fruits, says the
"Indeed, the very lack of availability of low-carb junk
food might have been a boon for low-carb dieters," the report says.
Here's what you can do to follow a low-carb diet and avoid the
- Eat whole foods: For 40 grams of carbs a day, you could eat a half-cup of
lentils, a cup of carrots, an orange, and a slice of light seven-grain bread --
for a total of 274 calories.
Those foods contain plenty of natural fiber and lots of
vitamins and minerals. Getting those 40 grams from low-carb snack foods might
give you 1,440 calories and few other nutrients.
Carefully read calorie and fat content on product labels.
Also, treat treats as treats, no matter what the carb count,
says the report. Don't eat five low-carb chocolate bars in a single sitting.
You wouldn't eat five regular chocolate bars at one time -- or, at least, you
shouldn't if weight loss is your goal!