What The Heck Are Net Impact Carbohydrates? Nutritional Facts Labeling FAQ – UPDATED!!

Andrew DiMino, President, Founder, and Publisher of CarbSmart

by Andrew S. DiMino,
President and Founder of CarbSmart, Inc.

First Posted July 10, 2001 – Updated April 26, 2005

CarbSmart is a retailer of over 1,300 products for people who live the low carb lifestyle. We are not the manufacturer of any of these products. When we list the Nutritional Facts and Ingredients for a product, we take them directly off the label of the product. Although we can’t guarantee what the manufacturer claims is accurate, we will try to accurately list what the label claims. Occasionally, the manufacturer will update their labeling, but they do not specifically tell us when they do this. We are proactively looking at all of the products we sell to update the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients as listed by the manufacturer. If you notice that something has changed on the label and we have not changed the Web site, please send me an email at comments@carbsmart.com, and I will check into it and change it as fast as possible.

 

Low Carb Products and True Carb Counts

What the manufacturer’s aren’t telling you, but are starting to disclose

For the last 2-3 years, there has been a crack down in the low carb food industry that is affecting all of the manufacturers of low carb products and the way you as a consumer look at their products. It is important for me as the owner of CarbSmart to let you know this because what I am going to describe is not being done with malicious intent, it is just a clever way for the manufacturers to bend the rules. The good news is that everything has mostly changed and most companies are complying with the proper way to list the Nutritional Information on their products as governed by the FDA.

The issue relates to certain ingredients that are actual carbohydrates that do not affect your blood sugar or are good for your digestive system. The manufacturers have previously taken the shortcut to subtract out these carbohydrates from the total carbohydrate count of your favorite low carb products. The FDA has stepped in to let these manufacturers know that they need to show the true carb counts of their products BUT they can separately list out the carbs that Dr. Atkins and the other low carb proponents allow you to subtract out as non-impact or Net Impact Carbs (sometimes called the Effective Carb Count). Here is some background information about these ingredients:

What is Fiber?

Dietary fiber is undigestible complex carbohydrates found in plants. Fiber has no calories because the body cannot absorb it. The most common source of fiber is fruits, vegetables, and bran. Dietary fiber plays a crucial role in the proper function and maintenance of the colon. Low carbers need fiber in their lifestyle to “bulk up” waste and move it through the colon more rapidly, preventing constipation and possibly colon cancer. Because these fiber carbs are not absorbed, they can be subtracted from your daily carb count.

What are Polyols (or sugar alcohols)?

Polyols are sugar-free sweeteners. Polyols are carbohydrates but they are not sugars. Unlike artificial sweeteners like aspartame which is used in very small amounts, polyols are used in the same quantity as sugar. Chemically, polyols are considered sugar alcohols because part of their structure resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohols. However, these sugar-free sweeteners are neither sugars nor alcohols, as these words are commonly used. Examples of sugar alcohols include maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol, lactitol, and xylitol. A majority of it is excreted out of the body during the digestion process.

What is Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate?

It is an ingredient derived from corn and created through enzyme hydrolysis. It contains maltitol as one of its components. It is also a very low glycemic carbohydrate that does not significantly impact blood sugar levels.

What is Glycerine?

Glycerol, or glycerin, is a natural constituent of the human body that occurs from the oxidation of stored body fat. This clear liquid has the ability to bind to water and hold it in the vascular system. Also, glycerine is used as a lubricant for products like protein bars to make them easier to ingest.

Why is maltitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, and glycerine in sugar free chocolate and candy items?

These ingredients are only partially absorbed by the body. They also add bulk and sweetness to products. The manufacturer can then claim that the item is sugar free without sacrificing sweetness.

Are products made with these ingredients really low carb?

Dr. Atkins, Dr. Eades, and other low carb authors and advocates all support the concept called Net Impact Carbs or the Effective Carb Count (ECC). The ECC lets you subtract the carbohydrate counts of ingredients that do not affect blood sugar levels. This includes dietary fiber, sugar alcohols, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, and glycerine. So when you look at a food label, you can calculate the ECC by:

 

Effective Carbohydrate Count
Start with: Total Carbohydrates
subtract: Dietary Fiber
subtract: Sugar Alcohols
subtract: Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate
subtract: Glycerine
the balance equals: Effective Carb Count

 

So according to the low carb experts, these products can be considered as low carb treats or low carb products.

Why do some manufacturers list these items as carbohydrates and some do not?

Unfortunately, the food labeling laws have been a little confusing when it comes to these carbs. Now, the manufacturers have not been trying to deceive you, they have just been using a loophole to label their products according to how they affect your blood sugar. Changes to the FDA requirements for product labeling is forcing all manufacturers to list the true carbohydrate counts of these products. It is up to the manufacturer to specifically list the items that do not affect your blood sugar levels so you have a better understanding of the ingredients.

So it is better for you to be an informed consumer. At this time, some manufacturers list the “true” carbohydrate counts and some don’t. Hopefully this FAQ will help you better understand how carbohydrate counts are listed in your favorite products.

 

CarbSmart is a retailer of over 1,300 products for people who live the low carb lifestyle. We are not the manufacturer of any of these products. When we list the Nutritional Facts and Ingredients for a product, we take them directly off the label of the product. Although we can’t guarantee what the manufacturer claims is accurate, we will try to accurately list what the label claims. Occasionally, the manufacturer will update their labeling, but they do not specifically tell us what the changes are. We are proactively looking at all of the products we sell to update the Nutrition Facts and Ingredients as listed by the manufacturer. If you notice that something has changed on the label and we have not changed the Web site, please send me an email at comments@carbsmart.com, and I will check into it and change it as fast as possible.

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