Jewish World Review
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) Americans' taste for low-carbohydrate foods and diets to help shed pounds appears to be souring, a new survey says.
More than half of individuals who tried a low-carb diet are no longer on it, and less than one in 10 are currently sticking to one, according to an independent survey of 500 people from InsightExpress, a market research firm in Stamford, Conn.
Of those people who are on a low-carb diet, nearly three out of four surveyed said they're likely to stay the course for the long term. Of those who passed on the diet, less than one in five said they would consider buying low-carb products, said the firm's president, Lee Smith.
"Consumers are telling us that the low-carb opportunity may have been blown out of proportion," Smith added. "The number of people who would adopt the consumption of low carbs and low-carb diets is not as large as everyone thought it would be."
That may bode poorly for food and beverage companies and restaurants that invested in producing low-carb alternatives of their flagship products. Brand-name businesses such as Burger King and Michelob, and even American Italian Pasta Company, Frito-Lay and candymaker Russell Stover have introduced reduced-carb options in the past few months.
But labels such as "carb-conscious" or "carb-friendly" appear to have limited appeal, the survey said. Thirty-four percent of those surveyed said they bought a food item because it was low in carbs, but only 25 percent said they're likely to purchase food labeled as such in the next six months.
What's more, 45 percent said they were either unlikely or extremely unlikely to purchase low-carb versions of the foods they typically buy in the next six months.
Carbohydrate content scrutiny also seems to be falling out of favor at supermarket aisles across the country. Fewer people said they consider total carbohydrates important when making food purchasing decisions, compared with those apt to consider contents such as calories, fat and cholesterol. Forty percent deemed total calories important, compared with 32 percent for saturated fat and just 30.2 percent who said carb counts were important.
"The perception is it's not a healthy diet and not a good way to help control weight," Smith said.
Some studies suggest low-carb diets, such as the Atkins model, may increase the risk of certain diseases over the long term; others refute that claim. It's creating controversy among experts, indicated Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"There's always been a cloud over the Atkins diet, but for many people losing those extra pounds mattered more than the long term risk of disease," she said.
The Atkins diet calls for people to cut their daily carb intake to 20 grams initially, and then gradually raise the level when weight loss moderates.
Despite the attention the low-carb craze drew earlier in the year, the market for low-carb foods is limited, Smith explained.
"It's kind of plateaued and doesn't appear to be poised for significantly more growth," he noted. "Our concern is companies in the food business may not be thinking this is a trend that may have plateaued, but something that's just beginning."
The arrival of low-carb foods - including specialty breads, pasta, ice cream and other sweets - gave some people a false sense of security that may be leading more to drop the diet after a trial period, Liebman observed.
"What made low-carb diets work for some people is suddenly a third or half of their normal food was gone," she said, noting that reduced-carb substitutes may have changed eating habits for the worse.
"People are eating pretty much what they always ate and in many cases they're eating as many calories. It's no surprise the pounds aren't melting away."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to define what constitutes "low carb," an issue many companies have sidestepped by using labels such as "carb-smart" and "carb-conscious," she said. "It's ironic that the craze may end before the FDA gets around to regulating these claims."
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.