A new study from the Valen Group shows that 28.3 per cent of US adults or about 59 million people - based upon the 2002 US Census estimates - are currently controlling their carbohydrate intake.
"We wanted to put a stake in the ground on the low carb market size with a large sample size of over 1000 adults," said Gus Valen, chief executive officer of The Valen Group.
Low-carb diets focus on moving consumers from diets heavy in refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour to a more equal balance with proteins and fat. Many also recommend whole foods and vegetables although Atkins has come under strong criticism for apparently failing to encourage consumption of fruit and vegetables.
And it appears that the US media still remains sceptic with a New York Times article this week causing swift reaction from the Atkins camp.
"The article...'Make that steak a bit smaller, Atkins advises dieters today' and the subsequent publicity, is yet another dramatically inappropriate example of the media reporting falsely about Dr Atkins. This is a great disservice to the millions of Atkins followers who have been benefiting from this nutritional approach for over 30 years," said a spokesperson from Atkins Nutritionals.
The company argues that the diet is safe, effective and beneficial, being supported by 17 studies over the past three years. Several experts have however said that eating red meat and saturated fat is less than beneficial for the body, linking the diet to liver failure and heart disease.
But the confirmed national following has been big enough to not only affect domestic markets but also foreign ones as well. Reuters reported today that Brazil's orange juice exports to the United States are shrinking in part because of the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets in North America.
The diet, which requires limited consumption of carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice, bread and some juices, and ample servings of proteins such as meats and fish, is also said to have boosted demand for US beef prior to the recent mad cow scare.
The key findings of the Valen Group study are to be highlighted at the LowCarbiz Summit this Thursday in Colorado. A report based upon the study entitled "Low Carb Consumers Speak: The Definitive Habits & Practices Study of Low Carb Consumers, Winter 2004" is available from the company's website, Valengroup.com.