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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that next month, the US Food and Drug Administration is expected to define what "low carbohydrate" means for the first time, giving manufacturers and retailers a yardstick by which they can measure their products and then advertise carb-related attributes to a carb-obsessed nation.

The problem, however, is that this is a lot tougher land to navigate than one might expect - especially because there a lot of different kinds of carbs to consider. After all, there are net carbs, effective carbs, and fit carbs. Depending on how the carbs compare to an item's fiber and sugar alcohols, the appropriateness of certain products for people on low-carb diets can be dramatically affected.

At the same time, manufacturers such as PepsiCo and Unilever are lining up to cash in on the low-carb trend, and no doubt hoping that whatever regulations the FDA puts into place will help to clarify and solidify their competitive positions.

Confusing an already complicated issue, of course, was the revelation by Atkins Nutritionals - the company founded by the late Dr. Robert Atkins to develop and peddle low-carbohydrate products consistent with the dietary regimen he established - that it is adjusting downward recommendations about the amount of red meat and saturated fat to be consumed while on the diet.

Traditionally, people on Atkins have believed that they could eat as much meat and saturated fat as they wanted, a feeling that was encouraged by the company's consumer publications. But now, the company is being more stringent about letting people know that only 20 percent of a dieter's calories should come from saturated fat.

The new revisions suggest that a great emphasis should be placed on fish and oils, and actually puts the Atkins Diet more in line with its competition, such as the South Beach Diet.

And there's another concern, says the paper. "Nutritionists worry that dieters will look at carb counts and ignore calories, which can add up."
KC's View:
Here's the real goal. You spend so much time considering all these various issues that you get a colossal headache and never want to eat again. You lose weight. You credit Atkins. They get rich. Everybody's happy.

If that doesn't happen, then they count on the fact that all this detail drives you to drink…which makes you fat, which forces you to go on the damned diet.

And once again, everybody's happy.

Actually, anything the FDA might do will be welcome, as long as it clarifies the situation.

After all, we're living in an environment where a "LowCarbiz Summit" is taking place this week, allowing retailers and manufacturers to share strategies that cater to this new reality.

In western New York, Wegmans Food Markets has begun using an aisle-by-aisle guide to help consumers find low-carbohydrate foods in its stores, as well as using displays for low-carb foods. In a column posted on the company’s website, Mary Ellen Burris, vice president of consumer affairs, notes that “Our leaflet is not a ‘how-to’ but rather a ‘where-to-find’ guide."

And, FYI, there's a new bi-monthly magazine on newsstands this week, Low Carb Living, designed to help the some 35 million Americans who are said to be flirting with or actually on a low car diet. There should be a lot of call for it, because the way things are right now, not everybody is happy.