Poll: More Americans Cutting Back on Carbs

More Following Low-Carb Diets, but Most Say Low-Fat Diets Are Healthiest

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 21, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

July 21, 2004 -- More Americans are actively avoiding carbohydrates today than two years ago thanks to the popularity of low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, according to a new Gallup poll.

But despite the low-carb craze, the poll also shows that most Americans still believe a low-fat diet is healthier than a low-carb one.

Researchers found nearly three times as many people (67%) said they believe a diet low in fat is more beneficial to the health of the average American than one low in carbohydrates (23%), and views on this issue have remained constant over the past two years.

More Americans Avoiding Carbs

The poll, conducted earlier this month, shows that the percentage of Americans who say they "actively try to include" carbohydrates in their diets has dropped from 50% in 2002 to 33%. At the same time, the number of people who say they "actively try to avoid" carbohydrates has increased from 20% to 27%.

Researchers say an increase in the number of people avoiding carbs was seen across all age groups, but the largest increase was among those aged 50-64 with 39% now avoiding carbs compared with 25% in 2002.

When asked more specifically about different types of carbohydrates, researchers found a more modest decline of 11% in the number of Americans who try to include "grains, such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice." But the percentage that tries to avoid these types of carbohydrates more than doubled from 6% to 14%.

The poll also found that the number of Americans who say they try to avoid "soda or pop" and sugar also increased, from 41% to 51% and 43% to 51%, respectively.

Avoiding or drastically limiting carbohydrates is a key component of the Atkins diet and other low-carb diets.

But carbohydrates come in many forms, and most nutrition experts recommend limiting the simple or refined carbohydrates found in highly processed foods, such as white bread and sugar, and encourage the consumption of complex carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Researchers found American's diet choices were also related to their weight. People who described themselves as overweight were more likely to say they were avoiding carbohydrates, grains, and sugar, than others.

Other Dietary Habits Remain the Same

The poll showed few other changes in American's attitudes towards other foods in their diet, including poultry, fruits, beef/red meat, vegetables, dairy products, salt, fish/seafood, and fat. The percentage of Americans who said they actively include these foods changed by less than 5%.

The foods most likely to be included in American's diets were vegetables (90%), fruits (89%), chicken and other poultry (85%).

The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,000 adults conducted July 8-11, 2004. Based on the size of this sample, the margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.