Net Carbs - Healthy or Hype?
The words "Net Carb" or "Low Carb" are everywhere today
in food advertisements. These ads are targeting consumers following low
The National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
indicates such diets may cause fast weight loss BUT most of the weight lost is
water and lean muscle instead of body fat. Further, NIDDK states low
carbohydrate/high protein diets often allow a lot of dietary fat which increases
risk for heart disease and some cancers.
Even though groups like NIDDK say these low carb diets are not healthy and
that you are more likely to keep weight off if you follow a balanced diet, food
advertisements are guiding consumers down the low carb craze.
What does low carb mean? Officially, the Food & Drug Administration
has not established a definition for low carb or net carb. Food
manufacturers base calculating net carbs on the basis that sugar alcohols and
fiber are not digested in the body and therefore should be deducted from the
total carbohydrate. The net carb is supposed to be the amount of
carbohydrate that is actually absorbed and affects blood sugar.
What does this mean if you have diabetes? In treating diabetes and
counting carbohydrates, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) indicates the
type of carbohydrate and how it affects blood sugar should be considered.
The ADA therefore recommends the following guidelines when reading a food label:
When counting carbohydrates, further investigation of the food label is
needed to calculate the actual amount of carbohydrate that affects blood
sugar. Additionally, in an effort to maintain a healthy bodyweight,
calories should always be considered. Low carb or carb free does not
always mean low calorie.
American Dietetic Association Manual of Clinical Dietetics, 6th
Edition. American Dietetics Association.
Marcason, W. What Do "Net Carb," and "Impact
Carb" Really Mean on Food Labels? JADA: 104; 1, 135.
National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Weight-Loss and Nutrition Myths. NIH Publication No. 01-4561.
Christine Carlson, MS, RD, BC-ADM, CDE
- deduct 1/2 the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrates IF the amount of fiber is
greater than 5 grams (for example, if a product contains 30 grams of
total carbohydrate and 6 grams of fiber, divide the fiber by 2 = 3 grams of fiber;
subtract 3 grams of fiber from 30 grams of total carbohydrate to figure the total carbohydrate that will affect
blood sugar = 27 grams of total carbohydrate)
- deduct 1/2 the grams of sugar alcohol from total carbohydrate IF
the amount of sugar alcohol equals 5 grams or more(for example, if a
food product contains 30 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of sugar alcohol,
divide the sugar alcohol by 2 = 4 grams of sugar alcohol; then subtract the 4
grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrate to figure the total
carbohydrate that will affect blood sugar = 26 grams of total
GlucoMenu® Nutrition Director