Commentary: It's time to curb the low-carb craze

It's official. When the Big Bear goes all low-carb crazy, America has collectively lost its marbles.

Actually, I take that back. Americans wouldn't dare misplace their marbles -- not if you told them marbles were invaluably low in carbohydrates.

I noticed the other day that the Klondike Bear and his ice-creamy pals have crashed the low-carb party and confirmed once and for all that it has spun hopelessly out of control.

Americans are getting their low-carb on -- in a big, ugly and frighteningly compulsive way.

The carb-counting revolution has us storming South Beach and worshiping Atkins with a powerful verve. It's like we're trying to hide our excess pounds behind the mounds of products and marketing matter now landing in grocery stores, restaurants and bookstores.

I have no delusions that the carb craze has crested. And yet the crushing level of carb-consciousness has already settled into that sad place where presidential campaigns often bottom out -- at some point, you just want them to be over with.

Quick disclaimer: Any regimen that increases dietary awareness, especially one that blockades processed foods, has merit. And I have no desire to engage in the unwieldy carbohydrate debate.

But I'm awed by the country's collective obsession.

A quick trip to the local bookstore tells all: I found 31 books in the diet and nutrition section devoted to or related to low-carb eating, low-carb cooking or low-carb lifestyles, whatever those are.

There were probably more volumes still -- but I got distracted when I glanced up and noticed something called Suzanne Somers: The Sexy Years. The curiosity was freakishly overwhelming.

Anyway, the 31 that I counted included only titles with clear evidence of low- or no-carb leaning. I'm sure there were some naughty masqueraders in there: Against the Grain, The Starch Busters Diet, Protein Power and others sounded suspiciously as if they prowled the same low-carb alley.

The creeping vines of the carb craze are similarly enveloping America's grocery stores. Low-carb cereal. Low-carb juices. Low-carb condiments. Some breads and tortillas are going with the low-carb flow -- which I really can't understand.

Bread and tortillas are built on carbs. That's like a low-maintenance supermodel.

It just can't be, I tell you.

There are some other confusing links on the low-carb chain. I found a low-carb dairy-based coffee creamer. But isn't dairy all about the protein?

Low-carb creamer should be redundant, like low-dirt soap.

So riddle me this: The International Delights low-carb creamer has 3 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.

But the same tablespoon of old-fashioned half-and-half (high ground around Heart Attack Hill) has less than 1 carb gram.

Anybody? Anybody?

And don't get us started on low-carb beer, which Michelob conspicuously markets. Beer is naturally low-carb, relatively speaking.

A 12-ounce bottle of Michelob Ultra has 2.6 happy little grams of carbs. Miller Lite has 3.2 grams of equally contented carbs.

These cousins may not live under the same roof, but they sure dwell in the same neighborhood.

Even if most light brews fall into the 5- to 6-gram carbohydrate range, that makes low-carb beer the worst idea since Joe Millionaire 2 (where Fox wasted tons of green only to learn that we got it the first time).

(Aside: The same amount of Coca-Cola currently sets you back more than 40 grams of carbs. Don't expect the soft drink execs to miss their at-bat in Low Carb Park.)

(Aside No. 2: While scrutinizing the grocery store aisles, I still saw plenty of holdovers from the "low-fat," "no-fat" and "reduced fat" brigade. That's so 1998. I see pink slips if some marketing mavens don't pick up the pace.)

The crowning moment in a carb-counting kingdom is still to come. Two words: Krispy Kreme.

That's right, the head of the doughnut state is developing a low-sugar, low-carb delicacy -- a gambit that threatens to set new standards in carbohydrate silliness.

It's all more evidence that Americans will buy into anything if there's a chance, just a chance, that they can join the ranks of the thin or thinnish without any of that icky old exercising.


Steve Davis is a thirty-something sports writer for The Dallas Morning News who hovers perpetually on the edge of fitness.


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