An Open Letter from CarbSmart
This is an article about how we all need to take responsibility as low carbers to
dispel all the lies, inaccuracies, and negative stories about the late Dr. Atkins
and YOUR low carb lifestyle. Because our industry is so new and there are so many
controversies surrounding low carb, I've decided to first look at what you should
expect from me as the owner of CarbSmart especially since carbohydrate counts
on labels are being questioned.
Due to the media's craze to jump on the "low carb bandwagon" they are more than happy to present stories that are both
positive and negative. Also, because industries like bread, orange juice and pasta
are seeing their first dip in sales ever, these manufacturers and product producers
are slamming Low Carb in the media instead of creating products for you to fill the
gap in their sales. But one big issue that has started to be challenged in the media
this year is if the carb counts presented on low carb product food labels are correct.
It is my opinion that in general the answer is yes and no.
What I am saying is that
I believe that some of the labels on the 1,200 products we sell are probably wrong.
What I want to let you know as my customer is that my goal is to only sell
products that are good for your low carb lifestyle AND are truthful in their
labeling. This article is to let you know that label inaccuracies happen for
a few of reasons:
- Carb counts can vary by batch produced
- Carb counts can vary due to moisture content in the product (and moisture content
changes over the life of the product)
- Carb counts can vary between the time the product is produced and when you consume
- Carb counts can vary do to how the product is shipped (by air, through high
- Carb count testing is not an exact science
- Some vendors may be lying or cheating about their labels
Although I believe that most of the manufacturers of the products
I sell are extremely reputable, the last point is the problem that
worries me the most. I am actively trying to determine which products
we sell are inaccurate due to dishonest manufacturers vs which
products' carb counts are off due to normal circumstances. If
information comes out in the media or elsewhere about a possible
inaccurate carb count, it is important for all of us to not
think that we are being intentionally deceived by every manufacturer.
If and when we find a possible inaccurate product carb count, it
will be immediately investigated and if necessary, taken off our site
and out of our stores. Then we will work together to determine if
and why there is a possible error.
In general, if you are enjoying a low carb product and you are still
losing weight or not seeing changes in your blood sugar levels, you are OK
to still eat that product.
The History of CarbSmart
I stared CarbSmart as an online
store in May of 1999 after I lost 50 pounds on the Atkins' plan. As
an online strategist for Gateway Computers, I was familiar with
online marketing and was surprised to see that there was very little
information and products available on the Internet. I found 150 good
low carb products, built the first web site and opened for business.
I received 3 orders that first day. CarbSmart has continued to grow
and I added over 1,000 more products and other features to the Web
site such as recipes and an
over 400 articles and stories).
We even built our first two physical
stores in 2003 and are currently developing a franchise plan that
will put CarbSmart stores all across the US. Over these last five
years my goal has been to not just sell low carb and sugar free
products but to be a leading information source and advocate for
responsible low carbing and truth in advertising, labeling, and
packaging. As some new information comes out about low carb and low
carb product claims, I want my customers, readers, and friends to
know about it first so you can make educated decisions in the
marketplace. I also want you to know how we will change our product
mix and/or marketing as these changes occur.
The FDA and Low Carb and Net Carbs Definitions
Did you know there is no FDA (Food and Drug Administration) definition of
"Low Carb"? The term Low Carb and Low Carbohydrate Diet was
developed by Dr. Atkins to describe his reduced carbohydrate eating
plan for losing weight and reducing the effects of diseases like
diabetes. Over the years, the terms have been used in diet books,
recipe books and food product labels. Manufacturers with product
servings of 0 to 20 grams are calling their products "low carb",
"xx% lower in carbs than other brands" or similar. In
general, this practice is meant to tell the consumer that the product
is good for them because it is lower in carbs than other regular
versions of the product. In fact, almost every product we sell at
CarbSmart has these claims.
Dr. Atkins also created the concept of "Net Carbs". The
original concept of net carbs was developed because when Dr.
Atkins' New Diet Revolution became popular again in the 90's, the
biggest complaint from dieters was constipation due to a lesser use
of vegetables, fruits, and other dietary fibers. Dr. Atkins
considered these claims and determined that since the body needs
dietary fiber and dietary fiber is a component of Total
Carbohydrates, that the dieter could subtract out dietary fiber from
their daily carb count in the following way:
Total Carbohydrates ? Dietary Fiber = Net Carb Count
This lasted a couple of years and was even adopted by other Low
Carb book authors as well as many medical practitioners. BUT, Atkins
Nutritionals (the company started by Dr. Atkins to develop and sell
low carb products) as well as other manufacturers who were intrigued
by this new market found that there were other ingredients they were
using in their products that were creating a "minimal",
"negligible", or "no or little" impact on the
blood sugar level of the person consuming the product. These
ingredients included glycerine (an ingredient added to protein bars
to help their digestibility) and sugar alcohols (a category of sugar
substitutes that add sweetness and bulk to products but unfortunately
also has a laxative effect depending on the amount consumed). These
manufacturers took it upon themselves to say "well, these
ingredients are not affecting the consumers' blood sugar level so
let's subtract their carb counts out of the Total Carbohydrate
count." So the current definition/use of the Net Carbs claim is:
Total Carbohydrates ? Dietary Fiber ? Glycerine ? Sugar
Alcohols = Net Carb Count
BUT, Is The Net Carbs Definition Real?
Studies are starting to show
that sugar alcohols actually affect different people in different
ways depending on many factors including the consumer's likelihood to
be diabetic or pre-diabetic. What this means is that the net carb
counts listed on low carb products may or may not be accurate
depending on your own situation.
Very soon, the FDA will start to discuss and hopefully sooner than later will develop acceptable
claims for manufacturers to make for low carb as they have for the terms
"low fat", "light" and "sugar free" as
well as a definition for net carbs.
At this time CarbSmart sells hundreds of products with labels that list a net carb or net impact
carb count based the current net carb count definition. In order to
help you decide if these products are for you: CarbSmart will continue to sell these products
with these label claims for net carbs until there is a FDA ruling
that either defines the concept, changes the definition, or rules
that the claim can not be made.
We will do everything we can to help
educate our consumers about the issues and any possible changes. Last week,
CarbSmart started to change the way we list the manufacturers' net carb
claims on our Web site:
CarbSmart will suggest that if you decide to purchase any product
with a Net Carb claim, please keep careful track of your carbs
consumed for that day and determine if eating that product had any
effect on your blood sugar or weight loss.
But why is there so much controversy about low carb product carb counts?
Part of the answer relies on how food products are tested for their nutritional
information which is printed on the label.
The FDA's Definition of How the Total Carbohydrate Count
Calculated and How it affects the Carb Count on Food Labels:
following definition comes from the FDA
How is "total carbohydrate" calculated? "Total
carbohydrate" is calculated by subtracting the weight of crude
protein, total fat, moisture, and ash from the total weight ("wet
weight") of the sample of food. 21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)
So according to the FDA, anything left over after crude protein, total
fat, moisture, and ash is counted is a carbohydrate! There is no official test
What this means is that most food manufacturers come up
with the nutritional facts for their product by sending samples of
their products to three different independent testing labs. Each one
of these labs tests for crude protein, total fat, moisture, and ash
and then calculates a carb count from those results. In most cases,
each lab comes up with different results for the tests! Sometimes the
differences are very small and sometimes the differences are as many
as a couple of carbs per serving! There are many possible reasons for
this including but not limited to:
- Differences in lab testing equipment
- The moisture content of a product can change depending on
altitude of the testing lab
- How the product was sent to the lab (ground shipment vs air shipment)
- Did the labs do their tests on different days
- And many other factors
The most important factor why carb counts can
differ is due to the fact that the inherent nature of food products
is that they are organic and nutritional values can be different from
batch to batch. For instance, products made with almond flour can
vary in its nutrition count depending on when the crop was harvested or
if the ingredients came from different producers in different parts of the country.
So after getting 3 independent lab results, its up to the manufacturer to choose the
carb count to list on their label. Some will take the lowest value
presented and some will average the three test. It is then the
manufacturers' hope that the carb count for all the batches that they produce,
will be close to the carb count they list on the label.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Even though I sell over 1,200 low carb
and sugar free products, I am the first person to tell you that you do not have
to buy a thing from CarbSmart to be a good low carber. Almost everything we sell
is a comfort food. If you are able to lose weight, maintain your weight or improve
your health by following low carb principles of eating beef, pork, fish, eggs,
cheese, vegetable, fruits, etc., I will be the first one to congratulate you.
BUT, if you want to add some of the foods you have been missing from your low
carb lifestyle like bread, chocolate, pasta, or pancakes, than I am here for
you with low carb versions of these products. I can't guarantee that you will
like the taste of everything we sell, but I will guarantee you I will:
- Provide a wide selection of products for you to choose from
- Check out every vendor to see if their products taste good and if they seem
- Try to the best of my abilities to make sure that nutritional claims on the
labels are accurate
- Provide timely information about your chosen lifestyle which will be found
in our online CarbSmart Magazine
- Try to provide you the best customer service before and after your purchase
- Fix any issue you have with your purchases as long as you give us a chance
to hear your issues by calling Customer Service toll free at 877.279.7091 x201
or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. It's always best to call us to see
if we made an honest mistake we can fix before you tell all your friends that
we gave you bad service.
For those of you who know me personally and those of you learning about
me, the Low Carb Lifestyle is my life and my passion. I don't just sell low
carb products to make a buck. We are all in this together so that we all reap
the benefits of our chosen lifestyle — weight loss and maintenance, a
healthier body, and a longer life.
If you have any question about carb counts, this article, or anything else,
please send me email at email@example.com.
I try to answer every email I receive and if there is a common theme in a series of emails,
I will answer it online.
Copyright © August 2004 Andrew DiMino, CarbSmart, and Low Carb Luxury
Title Photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury