Low-carb Pasta?
July 8, 2004 3:25 PM   Subscribe

DebunkFilter: Dreamfields Pasta claims only 5 digestible carbs per serving. Fact or fiction?

I put it to the collective intelligence of the MeFi crew to shoot holes in this 'digestible carbs' versus 'net carbs' claim. From their FAQ:
"Digestible carbs" are determined by a clinical method that measures the blood glucose response of the whole food to establish its glycemic load or content of digestible carbohydrates.
And further:
The Glycemic Load (GL) is a measure of the quantity of digestible carbohydrate in a product serving or in a specified amount of product.
Reading through this FAQ, I get the feeling that they are leaving out some important details. They say "Glycemic Load is a measure..." which leads me to wonder what other measures should be considered.

If anyone can debunk this claim, you guys can. Have at it!
posted by mischief to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Yep, the digestible carbs vs. net carbs is the most troublesome part of that FAQ to me. Determining net carbs is basically saying, "OK, this food has this many grams of sugars and starches, which are known to be digestible, and that many grams of fiber, which are known to be indigestible, so we'll only count the sugars and starches towards net carbs." Determining digestible carbs, according to the FAQ, is feeding people some of the food and watching how their blood glucose level reacts. Since the biochemistry of individuals can vary widely, I question whether anything meaningful can be determined via this method. I suppose if you had enough subjects, it might, but I don't see anything there about how many subjects were actually used for the determination.

If there were serious concern about the reliability of our knowledge on the digestibility of sugars, starches, and fibers, that might be a reason to look for a measure other than net carbs, but as far as I know that's pretty well accepted.

Other parts of the FAQ are more reasonable--if you do want to make a low-[net|digestible]-carb pasta, replacing much of the sugar and starch with fiber seems a reasonable way to do it. I don't know if that could actually be done without affecting the quality of the pasta, though.

As for whether the pasta actually contains the reduced starch/sugar and increased fiber they claim, you'd need someone with access to a food science lab to work that one out.

I have a degree in biochemistry but no special training in nutrition. Evaluate my proclamations accordingly.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:51 PM on July 8, 2004

Net carbs... digestible carbs... I dunno, but this I do know: Dreamfield Pasta tastes like crap, so frankly the question of "how many and what kind" of carbs it has is kinda moot... (FWIW, the "Atkins brand" pasta tastes even worse...)
posted by JollyWanker at 5:30 PM on July 8, 2004

Um. It makes perfect sense. Some carbs are indeed harder to digest than others. This kind of labeling isn't at all unusual in health food stores.

Some fibrous substances you eat, and your body breaks them down. Others, your body does not break down, or has to work a lot harder to do so. The latter kind are indeed really not the kind of carbs that carb-obsessed people are worried about (or they shouldn't be, if said people have any clue about fibers and sugars).

It's true, true, true.
posted by bingo at 5:30 PM on July 8, 2004

AFAIK, when you're gunning for a low-carb diet, what you want to watch out for are the glycemic indexes.

Carbs that are slow-digesting, ie. don't spike your blood sugar levels, are better for you.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 PM on July 8, 2004

It's true, true, true.

Did you read the FAQ?
"... our unique blend of dietary fibers and proteins protects all but about 5 grams of these carbohydrates from being digested."
It's not that it's high in fiber (the label only lists 4g per 2oz.), it's that they have some vague, magical process that binds up the carbohydrates in fiber and protein (only 7g/2oz). Sounds dubious. Even if there is a significant effect of combining fiber and protein with complex carbohydrates -- and, as I understand it, there is -- saying there are only 5g of digestible carbohydrates in the product is flat-out deceitful.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:24 PM on July 8, 2004

Everything I've read by people actually doing low carb diets says to deduct ONLY fiber. Starches and sugars affect everyone differently. So while they may not raise your blood sugars in any measurable way, they may (and probably will as I'm diabetic) send mine through the roof.

mischief, if you haven't already, you might want to check out the low carb newsgroup (alt.support.diet.low-carb). It's not aimed at one diet (Atkins, SBD, etc.), but low carbing in general. There is a ton of information available through it including product reviews.
posted by deborah at 10:16 PM on July 8, 2004

deborah - take a look at Atkins.

When counting the carbs in other people's stuff, you take gross carbs (heh) and deduct fibre to get net carbs.

If you then look at their own brand products, that goes out the window because they deduct other stuff. Polyols come to mind for some reason.

This will be why I'm on a low carb, low calorie diet that avoids all Atkins stuff.
posted by twine42 at 1:07 AM on July 9, 2004

I was fascinated with the simple fact that I could not find any list of actual ingredients in their products.

From a dietary view, I think avoiding pasta is good in any case. Train your stomach to be happier with less food. Pasta is mainly good for getting and feeling full. Wrong approach.
posted by Goofyy at 1:16 AM on July 9, 2004

This Canadian low carb site, and its support forum, are also excellent resources for all things low carb related.
posted by Tholian at 6:13 AM on July 9, 2004

Eliminate fiber? That just sounds stupid to me. Fiber is what keeps your guts clean and healthy; the only thing it does nutrition-wise is make it easier to absorb nutritious things.

The quality of some people's poop is a thought that horrifies me. It must be thoroughly nasty shit, given the awful diets they have.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2004

You're right. Atkins is good at twisting stuff around to fit their agenda. They also like to deduct sugar alcohols. Again, sugar alcohols affect everyone differently. I'm lucky in that they don't raise my blood sugar and can indulge in the occasional sweet treat.

In any case, your best bet is to stay away from "Frankenfoods" and eat the fresh stuff.

I don't mean eliminate (heh) fiber from your diet. You can deduct the grams of fiber from the grams of carbohydrates to come up with the digestible grams of carbohydrates. (I hope that makes sense.)
posted by deborah at 2:20 PM on July 9, 2004

Look into La Methode Montignac. It's a French diet from the 90's, like Atkins but where you can eat carbs with low glycemic indexes. It actually was created as a response to Atkins, which apparently "led to metabolic imbalances". Everything old is new again.
posted by smackfu at 4:27 PM on July 9, 2004

Even if there is a significant effect of combining fiber and protein with complex carbohydrates -- and, as I understand it, there is -- saying there are only 5g of digestible carbohydrates in the product is flat-out deceitful.

posted by bingo at 8:09 PM on July 9, 2004

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