The Truth About CARBS

Impact Carbs, Non-Impact Carbs, and Net Carbs: The
Current Day Rip-off Artists Hard at Work to Confuse You
Even More

by Dr. Gregory Ellis, PhD, CNS

I began receiving disquieting emails from my readers in
the Spring of 2003. I’d published my encyclopedic book,
Ultimate Diet Secrets in the Fall of 2002 and followed
that up with a condensed version, Ultimate Diet Secrets
lite, a sort of “just the facts, nothing but the facts”
version of the bigger book. The message, however, for
both books was the same: there’s one fact, and one fact
only, that determines bodyweight for each and every one
of us. What’s this fact? The balance between the
calories one burns and the calories one eats. Now, it’s
much more complicated than this in actual practice.
That, of course, has been the downfall of the “just eat
less and move more” dictum, as correct as it is,
offered by most health professionals. But, weight
control information isn’t driven by the professional
health industry; it’s driven by marketing, and the key
interest of marketers is to pick people’s pockets. If
the confusion were to end, the weight control industry
(business) as we know it would come to a grinding halt.

Because weight control is such an enormous problem for
most people, they’ve come to believe that its solution
must be very complex, not simple, as it is in reality.
The falsely-held belief in the idea that bodyweight
control is complex is what opens the door for the
thousands of weight control choices that flood the

As I worked with my readers, it became apparent to me
that most of them wanted to focus on diet as the key
issue and strategy to be discussed. I knew, of course,
that diet, or, rather, that the TYPE of food one ate,
was only a part of the weight control solution. I
taught my readers that how MUCH one ate was far more
important than WHAT TYPE of food one ate. No matter,
people keep focusing on WHAT TYPE of food they should
eat. Now, I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter WHAT
TYPE of food one eats, I’m saying it isn’t the most
important factor. That being said, please be clear, I’m
a supporter of the low-carb diet and I wrote
extensively about it in my book(s).

Also, be clear here too: the most popular low-carb guru
was Dr. Robert Atkins, but Atkins got much wrong when
he designed his strategy. In my work, I thoroughly
analyzed where Atkins went wrong and corrected those
errors when I designed my own, highly effective low-
carb diet that I presented in my book as a part of my
“menu of strategies” to help people solve bodyweight
control issues.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the glut of emails that
I began receiving about impact and non-impact carbs. To
answer my reader’s inquiries, I drafted a Word document
that I could send back to them explaining exactly what
was going on as a function of marketing — not science
– but marketing. I recently checked the stats on the
first draft of this article, and the Word summary shows
that I wrote it on May 4, 2003. Why do I need to tell
you this? Because something even more incredible is
happening at this time, January, 2004. But, let’s hold
that idea for a minute and take the time to read what I
wrote in May, 2003; and then I’ll enlighten you about
The Great American Diet Hoax: The Net Carb Scam.

May 4, 2003: This is a fascinating story. The diet
wars pit Carbs vs. Fats and Carbs vs. Calories. It’s
really Atkins vs. the low-fat medical establishment.
But, in fact, these wars have been refined and micro-
analyzed to the point that they now pit “Bad Carbs” vs.
“Good Carbs” and “Bad Fats” vs. “Good Fats.”

Each group has added new buzzwords to the argument,
further confusing an already confused population. What
are these words? For the low-fat group, the buzzwords
are healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats: the so-called
evil, saturated, animal fats vs. the so-called good
fats (like olive oils, canola oil, etc.). This idea is
strongly championed by the Harvard epidemiologist, Dr.
Walter Willet, who lurks behind the greatest scam in
medicine: bad “science’s” notion that fat and
cholesterol cause heart disease.

It’s not my task in this piece to expose and settle
that controversy. Just go to your favorite search
engine and type in “cholesterol myths”; you’ll get
enough to keep you busy for a lifetime.

My intent, here, is to destroy the low-carb supporters’
argument concerning impact carbs (IC) and non-impact
carbs (NIC).

In the two years before Atkins’s death, aggressive
marketers turned his enterprise into a multi-million
dollar food empire.

Since I’d quit following what was going on out there in
the “industry” after I printed my book (I didn’t think
there was anything new to learn), I missed the twists
and turns, the deceit and lies, that these people were
conjuring up so as to fit their round peg into a square

I knew the FDA controlled labeling, but I had no sense
of the extent to which these venal marketing people
would go in order to get around the laws, and to
confuse the public for more profits.

The basis of Atkins (and, all the other makers of low-
carb foods and food bars) is that it’s all about the
negative impact of glucose and insulin: about the
“spike” of glucose and insulin that occurs from eating
carbohydrate-containing foods. The question that begs
an answer once the statement is made that it’s all
about glucose and insulin is: “So what?” But, there’s
never an answer forthcoming.

Different carbs do, however, give different responses
in terms of how high blood glucose and insulin rise.
But it’s far more complicated than this; the “spike” in
glucose and insulin has little to do with how the body
disposes of a particular source of calories or fuel.
It’s glucose itself, the total amount that one is
exposed to during the day, that sets the stage for all
the body processes used to dispose of glucose. Insulin
only stimulates the direct effects caused by glucose;
glucose is the key substance causing changes.

Further, the argument offered by the IC/NIC Scam
artists, says that refined carbs are bad and that
unrefined ones aren’t. This argument is premised on the
notion that refined carbs digest quickly and increase
glucose and insulin. As I show in my big, encyclopedic-
edition, Ultimate Diet Secrets, this is simply not
true; the glycemic index (a measure of the rise in
blood glucose) for refined foods and their non-refined
counterparts is exactly the same.

The new boys at Atkins didn’t like his unwavering hard-
line about meat, meat, and more meat, intent as the new
group is today to be “PC” and middle-of-the-road. Their
latest position appears to be that they’ve pretty much
put Atkins’s teachings out to pasture.

Now, you can, of course, subtract the fiber grams from
the total carbohydrate count, but the other contention
is pure nonsense. With no science behind them, they
contend that, because glucose and insulin don’t rise
much, or at all, over fasted, baseline values, the
“carb” involved in this “non-response” is “good,” even
though the digested carb is present in one’s blood.
But, the position taken by the marketers is that it
simply no longer exists — at all. This is what they
mean when they say a carb has no impact. One’s glucose
level doesn’t have to rise for glucose to be present,
and it’s the presence of glucose that we want to
minimize and avoid.

This is going to turn really ugly; the confusion will
grow and grow, but the hucksters will not release their
death grip on the consumer’s wallets. The Atkins boys
did $100 mil in food sales last year and project $200
mil this year.

So, as unknowing as Atkins was, his new team knows far

So, I went to press, in October 2002, without knowing
that the seeds of this Scam had been planted and I
became aware of it recently and did my homework to
understand what it was that the marketers were now
doing in an effort to allow consumers to eat carbs
while on a low-carb diet; also to make sure that they
could extract the maximum amount of money that they
could from consumers’ wallets.

But, it gets worse.

January 14, 2004

OK, I’ve just now heard of the new scam, a variation,
or outgrowth, of the IC/ NIC scam. This is the Net Carb
Scam. Here’s how this new scam came about. In the late
1990′s, many nutritional supplement companies began to
make low-carb candy bars. This splinter group remained
outside the mainstream for many years, finally making
its way into the money-making market. Hard core gym-
goers are the ultimate in craziness; they read and
study muscle magazines as if the information they
contain is the Holy Grail. They spend hours every day
micro-managing their diets and workout routines, trying
anything to add an extra pound of muscle. I know this;
I was one of these people many years ago.

Complicit in all this, the muscle magazine editors bow
at the feet of modern science and medicine, assigning
untrained writers to study the medical journals and
come up with stories about state-of-the-art nutritional
science. Because they aren’t trained to read such
technical articles, and because they don’t have the
background and perspective to analyze what they’re
reading, writers for these popular magazines become an
enormous source of misinformation. And because the
notions of the fitness, nutrition, and bodybuilding
crowd permeate the cultural consciousness, the public
has become totally confused because its “experts,”
writers for these rags, are not shy about promoting
their ideas, fake as they are.

What drives all of this? Profits. All these groups know
that they can easily get their hands into the pockets
of most Americans.

Now, food bars without carbs taste pretty bad. So, the
food chemists started loading them with carbohydrates
that are called “sugar alcohols,” carbs that are
neither a sugar nor an alcohol. But, they are
carbohydrates, nonetheless, even if they digest slowly
and often contain a calorie or two less than a regular
carb. The other thing that they don’t do is “spike”
glucose and insulin, although they do add glucose to
the blood. I’m presently trying to uncover who dreamed
up the nonsense that it’s the “spike” that controls

At this time, many companies are manufacturing low-carb
food bars; they’re all using sugar alcohols as
sweeteners and claiming that, since they don’t “spike”
glucose or insulin, their carbs needn’t be counted. As
a consequence, the companies omitted the carb counts
from the Nutrition Facts Box that’s required by the FDA
on all food items.

Well, the FDA wasn’t pleased and ordered the companies
to list all the carbs in the Nutrition Facts Box. They
complied. But, they still sought a way to scam people
into believing that these carbs didn’t count. What did
they come with? Net Carbs. This comprises the total
carbs in the a food minus the fiber (legitimate) and
minus any of the so-called non-impact carbs
(illegitimate). But, most of these bars contain no
fiber anyway. So, a bar containing 23 grams of carbs
and 21 grams of sugar alcohols has, according to the
marketer, only 2 Net Carb grams. How did the marketer
convey this message? In another place on the bar he has
placed a sort of “seal of approval” announcing the
fabrication that the product contains only 2 Net Carbs.

So now the hucksters give the label its due, listing
all the carbohydrate grams as required by the FDA; then
they apply their own “seal of approval” that lists only
those carbs that (they say) “count,” neglecting the
other carbs. Although the calories are listed in the
Nutrition Facts Box, most individuals ignore the
calories because they’ve been convinced and pretty much
beat over the head during Atkins first thirty years of
fame that calories don’t count and only carbohydrates
have anything to do with bodyweight and body fat

Now, the ruse is fully operative.

What was it that struck me the other day? I’d never
really thought about the Net Carb idea because it’s
still so new. But, it finally dawned on me that Net
Carbs means that these are the only carbs that exist;
and all the others just vanish into the ether: they no
longer exist. So, the gas that goes into your car’s
engine, in this new world-order, needn’t be burned; it
just evaporates.

This isn’t even “Junk Science.” It’s is what I call
“Black Hole Science,” an ill-fitting application of the
new Quantum Physics.

Even more striking is the fact that several major food
companies are now advertising Atkins Friendly foods or
“low-carb” foods and have adopted the Net Carb idea. In
this scheme, the companies are simply ignoring all
kinds of carbs as if they don’t exist. I don’t think
many of them are doing much homework and are just
willy-nilly deciding how many carbs in the food product
they don’t want to count, ignoring them, then placing
the final number that they feel will intrigue the
consumer in their Net Carb box on the packaging.

Here’s what one of my readers overheard in a health
food store recently. An older woman, apparently
interested in pursuing the low-carb diet lifestyle,
asked the health food store clerk about a bar she was
interested in trying. The woman noted that the Net Carb
“seal of approval” stated only 2 Net Carbs.
Uninterested in the Nutrition Facts Box which claimed
the bar actually contained 23 grams of carbs and 200
calories, the woman was asking the clerk if she could
just eat the whole box of 12 bars at one time. The
unknowing clerk replied in the affirmative, “Sure, that
would only be 24 grams of carbs and you would surely be
below your carb limit for the day.”

No one knows. The whole country is being scammed. Even
those who should know, don’t know. So, the older woman,
in one sitting, eats 2,400 calories, likely more than
she needs for the whole day, and 276 grams of carbs
instead of the 24 that she thought she was consuming.
Topping off the gas tank like this should now push the
current obesity epidemic of about 60% of all Americans
as overweight to about 90% as the low-carb craze
continues to grow — unless we put an end to the
nonsense. That’s what I’m going to do because I’m the
new and improved, more complete, Atkins.

I think I know how this whole new mess, simply ignoring
all kinds of carbs, came about. It’s an extension of
the “spike” idea: the notion that, if a food causes
less of a “spike” than another food, then its carbs
simply don’t count — not at all. Not just less, but
not at all. Since the sugar alcohols provide carbs, but
no significant “spike,” the new mantra concludes,
“Well, if blood sugar rises only by 50%, instead of
75%, then many of its carbs don’t count either.” But,
I really think this idea never crosses any of the
marketer’s minds because I know that they have no clue
about any of this; they’re just jumping on the low-carb
bandwagon to grab their piece of the action. Low-carb
food sales are expected to top $30 billion in 2004.

But, sound justification isn’t needed because it’s all
about marketing. The food industry says that more than
30 million Americans are doing Atkins or some version
of a low-carb diet. I believe that this is a gross
underestimate and that a better estimate is 50 million,
or more, with another 50 million skirting around the
edges and doing some low-carb eating.

In the nutritional new world-order, a high-carb diet
can now be “defined” as a low-carb diet. Nothing counts
anymore. Nothing matters. The nutritional “expert” of
the moment can say whatever he wants to say, making it
up as he goes along.

I asked the food bar salesman at a recent trade show
what this Net Carb stuff was all about. He “explained”
that you can eliminate counting the sugar alcohols
because they don’t “spike” glucose and insulin. I asked
what that had to do with anything. Of course, he
couldn’t answer the question. Are we surprised? I don’t
think so.

Then I asked what the FDA had to say; he assured me
that they required a listing of all the carbs in the
Nutrition Facts Box. I asked if his new Net Carb “seal
of approval” was confusing to people and what the FDA
had to say about it because they are dogged in trying
to make nutrition information clear to people. He
assured me that the FDA said the Net Carb “seal of
approval” was OK. Of course, I didn’t buy this at all.

About an hour later, I called my FDA attorney to get
the scoop. She told me that the FDA wasn’t approving
any low-carb claims of any kind. Companies must get FDA
authorization, first, before placing any low-carb claim
on any food product, and, at this time, they have not
approved one claim. She told me, specifically, that the
Net Carb seal was unapproved and was illegal branding
of the food product.

This is really big business, and the consumer is being
scammed at every turn by some really big players. If
you thought low-fat was a mess, the Net Carb Scam makes
that look like child’s play.

My attorney doesn’t think that the FDA will resolve
this anytime soon, most likely because it’s also
confused about what it all means. The whole basis of
the scam, it seems to me, is the idea that “spikes” in
glucose and insulin somehow lead to metabolic
disturbances in the body. Since it’s unlikely that FDA
personnel have the requisite background to resolve
what’s really going on in bodies eating carbs, they’ll
remain confused and the marketers will have a field day
with the American public’s wallet.

Pay no attention to the Net Carb Scam.

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