Carbs 101 – Part 1 The Big Business of Low-Carb


- 28 October

No single nutrient causes more confusion than carbohydrates. Often you’ll hear partial truths about how carbs make you look, feel or affect your health. Statements like: “Carbs make you fat”… “carbs make you sluggish”… “carbs cause disease.”

Are these statements true or not true? More importantly, how do we determine if information we read (or hear) is accurate and trustworthy?

How Bad Information Spreads

If you do an online search for “keto diet,” what you see at the top of the page is determined either by how popular the article is or how much money an advertiser spent for that placement. I think we can all agree that neither popularity nor financial influence makes the content factual, but it certainly influences our perception of whether we think it is.

Here’s a very real scenario on how easily bad information can be spread:

Step 1: A writer posts an article online sharing his/her opinion on a popular topic.
Step 2: A social media influencer does a Google search on that same topic.
Step 3. Said influencer references information from that article and shares a post.
Step 4: The influencer’s audience reads the post and does a quick search to fact check the information.
Step 5: People read the same article and confirm in their minds that the facts must be true.

“What, it’s not true? I saw it on TikTok and Googled it. It must be true!”

The Low-Carb Money Grab

The world of commerce doesn’t care if a new diet fad is good, bad, factual or not. It only cares that it has your attention and interest, which means they can sell you something.

If it’s popular, there’s money to be made. If there’s money to be made, they’re going to try and keep you engaged with a barrage of marketing tricks. Big companies spend billions of dollars getting doctors, nutritionists, athletic trainers and university researchers – all people we’re conditioned to trust as experts – to support their claims.

The first big fad in the low-carb industry was the Atkins Diet, which became a best-selling book in 1997. After a strong 15-to-20-year run, the Atkins Diet was replaced in popularity with the next iteration of low-carb: the keto (ketogenic) diet.

Along with this low-carb craze came zero-sugar drinks, desserts and anything sweet. This was made possible with chemically altered sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame, as well as sugar alcohols like maltitol, xylitol and sorbitol. Collectively, the sugar substitute market rakes in 7 billion dollars a year and is expected to grow to over $10 billion by 2026. Factor in the $10 billion keto diet market, and it will open your eyes to the big business of the low-carb industry.

The Proof Is In The Sugar-Free Pudding

The staggering amount of money spent in the low-carb industry must have helped us get thinner and healthier… right? Well, look at some statistics and decide for yourself.

  • Since the rise in popularity of low-carb diets, obesity rates in the U.S. have grown by more than 10%, according to the CDC.
  • Over 70% of the total U.S. population fits the criteria for being overweight, and roughly 42% of all Americans fit the criteria for obesity. Running in parallel to that is the rise in dietary and weight related health issues.
  • Diabetes shot up dramatically starting in 1996 and has continued an aggressive climb ever since. Today, 1 out of every 3 Americans has diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to the CDC.

Low-Carb Isn’t To Blame

The goal here isn’t to place all blame on the low-carb industry for the health issues we have in this country. Statistics show that up to 95% of diets fail, regardless of the diet type (low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, etc.). Of the people who do actually lose weight following a restrictive diet, it’s estimated that around 80% gain a majority of the weight back within 12 months.

Considering the $72 billion spent annually in the weight loss market in the U.S., it’s clear that something isn’t working. Maybe it’s time to consider a new approach. One that doesn’t eliminate an entire macronutrient. One that’s sustainable and you can stick to long-term so the weight you lose won’t be gained back. One that calls for being carb conscious instead of low-carb.


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