The Low Down on Low-Carb Products

Is low-carb beer, bread, or candy any better for you?

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

Hard-bodied men and women working out at the gym may not seem like typical beer drinkers, but that's exactly what today's carb-conscious marketing campaigns would like you to believe.

A flood of low-carb beer, pasta, bread, candy, and even ice cream has hit supermarket shelves in recent months to fulfill the cravings of dieters who are counting carbohydrate grams rather than calories. The products promise to help Atkins and other low-carb diet devotees to, "Lose the carbs. Not the taste," according to a Michelob Ultra Low Carbohydrate Beer billboard campaign.

But will a low-carb beer really help you lose your beer belly? Or will trading your favorite ice cream for a lower carbohydrate version make you healthier? In a word, "no," say the experts.

"I think a lot of people think that with low-carb snacks and desserts they can do an end run around a healthy diet, but you can't," says Larry Lindner, an instructor at the school of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston. "It's not going to work in the long run, and it's certainly not going to be good for your body."

In fact, Lindner recently compared a sampling of low-carb products with their regular counterparts and found they often contain virtually the same number of calories, despite the much higher price tag for the low-carb versions.

For example, a 12-ounce bottle of Miller Lite has 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbohydrates, and a bottle of Michelob Ultra Low Carbohydrate has only one less calorie and about half a gram fewer carbohydrates but costs 12% more. In comparison, regular beers typically contain about 150 calories and more than 10 grams of carbohydrates per serving.