Skip to content

Women's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

When a Carb's Not a Carb: The Net Carb Debate

Will counting net carbs help or hurt weight loss efforts?

WebMD Feature

When is a carb not a carb? That's the question many carb-conscious dieters are facing as they struggle to keep their carb counts within the strict limits recommended by Atkins and other low-carb diets.

Recommended Related to Women

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2008: Readers' Choice

Is everything OK down there? Could what happened to Heath Ledger happen to me? What are the signs of dry drowning? WebMD's expert bloggers took on some of the year's toughest issues and our readers responded. Those topics are among the most viewed blog posts on WebMD for 2008. What Are Those Little White Bumps? My Ultrasound Found an Ovarian Cyst Statins and Muscle Pain 6 Minutes to a Sharper Memory Vaginal Discharge: Normal o...

Read the Top 10 Blog Posts of 2008: Readers' Choice article > >

In an effort to cash in on the low-carb craze, food manufacturers have invented a new category of carbohydrates known as "net carbs," which promises to let dieters eat the sweet and creamy foods they crave without suffering the carb consequences.

But the problem is that there is no legal definition of the "net," "active," or "impact" carbs popping up on food labels and advertisements. The only carbohydrate information regulated by the FDA is provided in the Nutrition Facts label, which lists total carbohydrates and breaks them down into dietary fiber and sugars.

Any information or claims about carbohydrate content that appear outside that box have not been evaluated by the FDA.

"These terms have been made up by food companies," says Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD, director of nutrition at the Irving Center for Clinical Research at Columbia University. "It's a way for the manufacturers of these products to draw attention to them and make them look appealing by saying, 'Look, you can eat all these carbs, but you're really not impacting your health, so to speak.'"

Although the number of products touting "net carbs" continues to grow, nutrition experts say the science behind these claims is fuzzy, and it's unclear whether counting net carbs will help or hurt weight loss efforts.

What's in a Net Carb?

The concept of net carbs is based on the principle that not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same manner.

Some carbohydrates, like simple or refined starches and sugars, are absorbed rapidly and have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause blood sugar levels to quickly rise after eating. Excess simple carbohydrates are stored in the body as fat. Examples of these include potatoes, white bread, white rice, and sweets.

Other carbohydrates, such as the fiber found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, move slowly through the digestive system, and much of it isn't digested at all (insoluble fiber).

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
 
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
insomnia
Is it menopause or something else?
 
woman in bathtub
Slideshow
Doctor discussing screening with patient
VIDEO
 
bp app on smartwatch and phone
Slideshow
ovaries in body model
Article
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
Slideshow
hot water bottle on stomach
Quiz
 
question
Assessment
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
Quiz