When a Carb's Not a Carb: The Net Carb Debate
Will counting net carbs help or hurt weight loss efforts?
Calories vs. Carbohydrates
Berning says the larger issue she has with products that tout a
low "net carb" count is that they also often contain a lot of
"It's my guess that most people are restricting
carbohydrates because they want to lose weight," Berning tells WebMD.
"The point I think they're missing is that you may have 2
net carbs in this bar but you've also got 260 calories," she says referring
to double chocolate Powerbar. "I don't care that it's only 2 net carbs. The
thing is, have you done enough exercise, have you balanced the rest of your
diet to put in 260 calories in that bar -- whether it has 30 grams of
carbohydrates or 2?"
Rather than focus on what she calls "the little c" of
carbohydrates, Berning says people interested in weight loss should focus on
the "big C"-- calories.
Karmally agrees and says terms like net carbs shouldn't trick
dieters into thinking, "This is a free lunch, and I can have as much as I
want," just because a food company says the impact or net carbs are only so
"You lose track of the fact that foods have calories, and
what has impact on weight management is the number of calories you consume and
the amount of exercise you do," says Karmally.
Earlier this year, the FDA's Obesity Working Group also
advocated a simple "calories count" approach to battling obesity and
helping people make healthy food choices.
"Our report concludes that there is no substitute for the
simple formula that 'calories in must equal calories out' in order to control
weight," says FDA Acting Commissioner Lester Crawford in a news release
announcing the report.
In addition, the report recommended that the FDA respond to
requests to define terms such as "low," "reduced," and
"free" carbohydrates as well as provide guidance on use of the term
"net carbs." Several industry and consumer groups as well as food
manufacturers have petitioned the FDA to set official "low carb" levels
as well as take action on "net carb" claims.