October 9, 2004
Q: What does "low carb" mean? I hear that term a lot lately. - Layperson
A: Generally, this term means "high protein-low fat" has replaced some of the carbohydrate content. The FDA has not approved any definition or label for "low carb". The carbohydrate content is reduced by replacing sugar with sugar alcohols (lactitol, maltitol, or sorbitol) or artificial sweeteners. With beers, certain chemicals are used to reduce the carbohydrate content. Many foods list "effective", "net", "net impact", or "useable" carbs on their labels. With slight-of-hand calculations, these terms can make foods appear lower in carbohydrate than they really are. Many manufacturers subtract grams of fiber and sugar alcohols from the "total carbohydrate" count to get "net carbs", reasoning that fiber, a carbohydrate, is not absorbed by the body, therefore, does not count and sugar alcohols, also a carbohydrate, although absorbed by the body, does not impact blood sugar much and, also therefore, does not count. Carbohydrates are essential to the body. Severely restricting them for more than brief periods, can cause severe damage to all systems of the body, but especially, the brain, whose sole energy source is glucose (when depleted, ketones from fat breakdown is used, but with high toxicity) and the kidneys. When glucose is depleted, fat is then used, and when depleted, protein is used which happens in starvation and certain disease states (i.e.-cancer). Generally, "low carb" foods are toted for "weight-reduction " diets. Most "low carb foods" have as many calories as other foods. The key to dieting, is still overall calorie reduction and exercise. On a calorie for calorie basis, fiber requires more calories to process by the body then protein, followed by fat in last place.
DISCLAIMER: The information in this column, is NOT intended to diagnose and/or treat any health related issues and is provided solely for informational purposes only. Consult the appropriate healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime. Even what may seem like simple changes in the diet for example, can interact with, and alter, the efficiency of medications and/or the body's response to the medications. Many herbs and supplements exert powerful medicinal effects. Neither the author, nor the website designers, assume any responsibility for the reader's use or misuse of this information.