Low-carb competition puts Atkins under pressure

Related tags Atkins Atkins nutritionals Nutrition

Atkins Nutritionals, the business created to support the diet plan
developed by Robert Atkins, says its reputation and science is
being ripped off by new diets, based on reducing carbohydrates.

The company, which claims the Atkins regime is backed by 27 scientific studies, says the confusion surrounding various low-carb diets could turn people away from the low-carb approach altogether.

"A lot of derivative low-carbohydrate programs have sprung up over the last few years,"​ said Dr Stuart Trager, medical director of Atkins Nutritionals. "They are all trying to claim that they are the new and improved Atkins when, in truth and in fact, there is little, if any material difference between them and Atkins - other than the Atkins Nutritional Approach has been scientifically proven to work."

Two studies in the recent issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine​ appear to support the positive effect on weight loss from Atkins although critics have questioned whether consumers can adhere strictly to the diet over a long period of time.

Nevertheless the high trial rate - almost one in three Americans claim that they have followed the diet at some point in their life - is enough to tempt marketers and food manufacturers promoting low-carb products.

Data from the Natural Marketing Institute's consumer trends databases reveal that two thirds of Americans are using some method to lose weight and 36 per cent of them have tried reducing their carbohydrate intake. And the fastest growing methods for weight loss include eating less carbohydrates (37 per cent) and consuming foods high in protein (42 per cent).

Among the newer variants of the Atkins plan is the South Beach Diet, positioned as a 'healthier' Atkins, according to Trager. But comparisons between the two reveal that there is no statistically significant variation between levels of healthy fats and healthy carbs, he says.

The lack of science involved in many marketing campaigns for 'low-carb foods' has also attracted the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration, which has sent warning letters to food manufacturers making 'low carb' claims on their packaging.

No approved nutrition content claim currently exists for low-carbohydrate food although industry associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) have petitioned FDA to provide guidance to food companies on low-carb claims.

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