Weekly Gems from Ronda Gates.
Health promotion newsletters that cross my desk report that the low carbohydrate revolution may have peaked. That may be true but it's hard to believe when print ads, including billboards, continue to advertise food and restaurant choices based on "net carbs."
When I first saw the net carbs language on print ads (including billboards) that advertised food and restaurant choices I had no clue what the term meant. Where did this label term come from and how come its introduction passed me by? As it turns out, it has nothing to do with labeling laws.
Net carbs is a term first used by the Drs. Eades in their book Protein Power, then adapted by Dr. Atkins in his revised Diet Revolution book-believed by some to be the bible of low-carb dieting. Atkins wrote that when you're counting carbs you don't have to be concerned about those that are fiber-based or those that come from sugar alcohols because they don't raise blood sugar. You only have to worry about net carbs which are computed by subtracting the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbs in a serving. Of course, in a business as usual perspective, Atkins Nutritionals had developed a growing product line that included sugar alcohols (sobitol, xylitol, mannitol, and maltitol) among their ingredients.
I think net carbs are a gimmick since calories are not reduced when you lower the "carb count" of a food or recipe. If the carbs are fiber, they're not digested, but sugar alcohol has calories and when it comes to weight management it's calories that count.
Not all experts agree on the difference between carbs, making this a controversial topic for debate. And, since no standards are currently in place for calculating net carbs, the method used to arrive at a net carb number may vary and, therefore, may be inconsistent from one product to another.
The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recognize the difference in carbs. To the FDA a carbohydrate is defined by its chemical makeup, not its physiological effect on the body. With pressure from food companies and consumers alike, the government is considering redefining carbohydrates.
All this good carb, bad carb business and the impact of food on blood sugar levels can be resolved by using the Glycemic Load (not Glycemic Index) to determine whether a serving of any food will raise blood sugar. It's not a foolproof mechanism though because a food that is high in fat or protein could have a low impact on blood sugar but be a poor choice for healthy eating.
I continue to believe the food target in Smart Eating is the best choice for choosing food wisely. More than twenty years after it's introduction guidelines for a diet lower in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), lower in sugar (especially refined sugars), higher in fiber, balanced, varied and providing sufficient nutrient dense calories is a guarantee for good health. Manage your portion sizes and you won't have to worry about net carbs or any other food fad that comes along.
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