Low-Carbs, Net Carbs, Who's Counting Carbs Anyway
and What Role do Polyols Play?
For those consumers who are "carb conscious"
there's no shortage of
low-carb products -- from ice cream to pasta and even bread,
where have all the carbohydrates gone? According to Prepared
Foods, there were 661 low-carbohydrate products introduced in
the U.S. just through May 2004, far exceeding the 289 products
introduced in 2003. The U.S. now has a total of 827 low-carbohy-
drate products on the market, compared to a total of 83 low-carbo-
hydrate products in Canada and 14 products in the U.K.
With an increased focus on reducing carbohydrates, manufac-
turers are searching for the best ways to meet consumer demand.
In January, more than
from various compa-
nies gathered for the
occurred in Denver,
Colorado. The focus of
the summit was to dis-
cuss opportunities in
the low carb market.
Restaurants are also
trying to accommodate
patrons watching their
carbs. According to
Restaurant Business, nineteen percent of those classified as
"frequent restaurant patrons" (those who dine out 2-3 times
per month) in casual dining establishments are using Atkins.
Restaurants have responded with "Atkins friendly" wraps, bunless
burgers and more.
Polyols Make it Possible
But how are manufacturers meeting consumer demand and
reducing the carbohydrates in their products? Many manufactur-
ers are turning to the use of polyols. Polyols are sugar-free sweet-
eners that are used cup-for-cup in the same amount as sugar.
Many health professionals refer to polyols as "sugar replacers"
since this is a more consumer friendly term. Polyols provide
fewer calories per gram than sugar, and do not cause sudden
increases in blood glucose levels. This is because they are more
slowly and incompletely absorbed from the small intestine into
the blood. Some of the portion that is not absorbed into the
blood is broken down into smaller segments in the large intes-
tine. Because these sweeteners have lower caloric values than
sugars, they can be useful for people with dia-
betes and those trying to control their calories.
Carb Counting Claims --
What Makes Up Low-Carbohydrate Products?
Consumers and health professionals have seen
the terms "impact" or "net carbs" on the label
of "carb conscious" products -- but what exact-
ly do these mean? For the most part, to make a
product reduced in carbohydrates, many food
manufacturers are sub-
tracting the total grams
of polyols and fiber from
the total grams of carbo-
hydrates. The remaining
carbohydrates after sub-
tracting the polyols and
fiber from the total car-
bohydrates are often
referred to as the "net"
or "impact" carbohy-
drates. Although this may
be acceptable for those
following a lower carbo-
hydrate diet such as the
Atkins Diet or the South Beach Diet, for those
with diabetes (who must carefully control their
carbohydrate intake), depending on the "net" or
"impact" carbs labeling may not be the best
guidance. Most diabetes educators advise their
patients to do the following when determining
carbohydrate content from foods with polyols:
1. If all the carbohydrate comes from
polyols and there are less than 10
grams of total carbohydrate it can be
considered a "free food." Health pro-
fessionals recommend three servings
or less per day.
2. If the grams of polyols are greater
than 10, subtract half of the grams of
polyols from the total carbohydrate
grams and count the remaining car-
bohydrate grams accordingly into the
(continued on page 7)
per gram than
do not cause
they can be