May 21, 2004

Low Carb Diets in Retreat

OH, THANK GOD. The whole low-carb craze has jumped the shark, according to this report in The Washington Post. It's about time, too.

Now there is much hand-wringing expressed in the article: arguments that God-fearing Americans don't understand the "lifestyle," complaints about falling sales and so on. Also, there are howlers throughout -- even in the story's lead:

The nation's appetite for low-carbohydrate foods seems bottomless, judging by the many low-carb products showing up in supermarkets and the new menu items at restaurants and fast-food chains. And when Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. recently announced slowing sales, it put part of the blame on low-carb diets.

Gee. Last time we checked, in a developed capitalist economy such as ours, "supply" does not equal "demand." Also, perhaps it's just us, but we don't understand why a story about falling sales would start off with a nothing graf contradictory to everything else in the article.

Still, at least one fellow quoted in the Post's story fundamentally gets the problem with low-carb foods. Consider the words of Arne Bey, identified as president and chief executive of leading low-carb manufacturer Keto Foods LLC.

"Many food companies, and even some major food companies . . . have placed substandard-tasting products on the shelves," Bey said. "So what you then have is hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of trial purchasers who are disappointed, and therein lie the seeds of a contraction of demand."

In short: nearly all of it tastes like crap.

Now, of course we do not mean to impugn the quality and tastiness and general good-for-you-ness imbued in Keto Foods' offerings. That said, had we but thought of it, we could have told you a long time ago that nearly all the low-carb stuff out there tastes like crap. You see, we are diabetic; and as such, we have long experience trying out various diabetic-friendly foods which also taste like crap.

Consider our experience two weeks ago. We were out at the pharmacy, refilling the many prescriptions which keep our atrophied body functioning, and we noticed a small package of snack bars for diabetics. We knew these were aimed at diabetics, because of the brand: GLUCERNA.

Initially, because we do not like to be openly reminded of the fact we are diseased, we were not inclined to purchase the GLUCERNA brand of snack bars. Yet we bought them anyway, as the package claimed that the bars had been designed to release their carbohydrates over time, instead of releasing them in the usual spike into the bloodstream that normally occurs. What this meant in real terms was that instead of sugar, the company threw vats of sugar alcohol into the mix. The end result was that, unsurprisingly, the bars tasted like crap.

So, to recap: low-carb foods taste like crap. Should anyone manage to actually figure out how to make them not taste like crap, we have no doubt the world will be their oyster and vast wealth will await them. But we suspect that will be a long way off.

In the meantime, though, we must say we question certain elements of the story vis-a-vis the whole low carb craze, such as this sentence: "But some manufacturers are planning for a time when low-carb diets are no longer the consumer favorite."

When the devil were low-carb foods EVER the consumer favorite? Gad. We wouldn't touch a low-carb anything even if you paid us to do it. Well, if you paid us to do it, we'd eat GLUCERNA bars all day long, but never mind. Our point is that no matter how much one would wish otherwise, one cannot fashion a substitute for the goodness of carbohydrates. We are sorry, but this is the plain truth.

However, we would hate to see people give up a lifestyle choice just because certain prepared foods taste like crap. Here's a secret: if you stop eating carbohydrates, your body -- after four or five days of agonizing pain -- no longer hungers for them. So if you focus on quality foods -- by which we mean lots of beef -- you can counteract your body's natural cravings for carbohydrates by replacing it with its natural craving for protein. Also, eat a lot of vegetables.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 21, 2004 03:30 PM | TrackBack

Once more the Rant leads the way in providing good, solid and well balanced consumer information. You are absolutely right. Low carb doesn't have to taste bad if you stay away from the packaged items and eat freshly prepared foods. A diet including proteins such as fish, chicken and beef coupled with lots of vegetables and greens can eliminate those carboyhdrate cravings, prevent feelings of hunger, spur weight reduction and provide good improvements in controlling glucose levels. Going easy on the carbohydrates makes tremendous sense particularly for a diabetic. But don't over do the protein consumption especially fatty proteins, which can drive up your cholesterol.

Posted by: Swammin in Solon at May 21, 2004 03:59 PM

I think the Grampa from Grumpy Old Men had it right when he succintly and defiantly purchased only whiskey, Camels, and bacon at the ripe old age of 95. I think we can all learn something there.......

Posted by: simon from jersey at May 21, 2004 04:14 PM