NEW YORK (AP) – With very keto-friendly recipes, low-carb food enthusiasts hope to be approved in the upcoming US food guidelines that advise Americans to eat.
This may seem minor, but proponents argue that the inclusion of low-carbohydrate foods could affect the nutritional advice given by doctors and help shape government food programs such as school lunches. Currently, the guidelines cite Mediterranean, vegetarian and other diets as examples of healthy eating.
"The key is to move away from a single diet," said Nina Teicholz, who wrote about low carb diets.
Last year, US health authorities said that low-carbohydrate diets would be reviewed, as would other food consumption styles for the 2020 update of the guidelines. The sponsors are hopeful because the panel of experts selected to review the evidence includes members appointed by Atkins Nutritionals and an industry beef group. The group met for the first time last week and is expected to issue a report to help set guidelines by next year.
The skepticism of nutrition research on the formulation of confusing opinions receives little attention. Supporters with low carbohydrate say that rising obesity rates show that the conventional wisdom about nutrition, reflected in the guidelines, does not work for everyone.
Some nutrition experts warn that evidence of a low carbohydrate diet is new and it is unclear what the long-term effects would be. They say the criticism of the guidelines is exaggerated and blame the food industry for distorting the messages for the low-fat, high-sugar, and big-portion snack market. They note that the Guidelines have warned of sugar since their introduction in 1980, and that the key recommendations have been largely consistent and remain valid.
Low carb diets generally limit foods such as bread, pasta and sugar to less than 30% of calories, or about 750 calories for a person consuming 2,500 calories a day. The idea of limiting carbohydrates has been around for decades and many people remember the Atkins craze. The ketogenic diet has been used to treat people with epilepsy and has resurfaced as a very low carb diet adopted by celebrities.
Charles Garrison, a Florida mortgage agent, decided to try the keto diet, including foods like almond flour waffles.
"I do not intend to be very strict about it forever," he said.
Low carb diets can work well for people with type 2 diabetes who are more sensitive to carbohydrates. But the benefits of low carbohydrates can also be overstated and people still need to make sure their diet is healthy, said Kevin Hall of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Some nutrition experts say that sticking to low carb diets can be difficult and people should make lasting changes. Marion Nestlé, a nutrition researcher who helped draft the 1995 guidelines, said she preferred recommendations encouraging healthy eating habits, such as types of foods to eat or limit.
"People do not eat nutrients, they eat food," she said.
The addition of low carb diets could complicate things. The guidelines, which are now over 120 pages, also advise people to limit the saturated fats that are usually found in meat and butter – foods that are often linked to low carb diets.
Instead of adding another diet to the combination, simplifying the guidelines would be more helpful, said John Ioannidis, a health policy researcher at Stanford University.
"If we eat more, it will make us obese. It's 100% correct, "he said.
Follow Candice Choi on Twitter: @candicechoi
The Associated Press Science & Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.