Should Americans Get Half Their Calories From Carbs? Two Camps Battle It Out – The Wall Street Journal

A food fight over carbohydrates is shaping up for control of Americans’ plates.

Years after low-carb eating gained attention with the Atkins diet, the low-carb movement is trying to gain wider mainstream acceptance and a nod of government endorsement. The latest battleground is the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines, which are being revised for the first time in five years.

Low-carb advocates believe the current guidelines—which recommend Americans get about half their calories from carbohydrates—are partly to blame for America’s high rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Lining up against them are supporters of plant-based diets, among others, who argue that low-carb diets often include too much saturated fat from meat and dairy products and neglect important sources of nutrients like fruit, certain vegetables and whole grains.

During heated public hearings over the past 18 months, low-carb advocates pushed to include a low-carb diet option in the new dietary guidelines, which the government is expected to finalize in December. A federal advisory committee rejected that idea, saying evidence supporting that approach wasn’t conclusive. Now low-carb advocates have regrouped and are pushing the government to include a disclaimer with the final guidelines saying they are “only for healthy Americans”—marking them irrelevant for the majority of the country who are overweight or have diabetes or prediabetes.

For many such people, low-carb advocates say it’s unhealthy to follow the current guidelines and better to follow a low-carb approach. “About half of the country has either diabetes or prediabetes, 40% are obese, and if you include overweight Americans it’s about 70%,” says Mark Cucuzzella, director of an advocacy group called the Low-Carb Action Network and a professor and director of low-carb nutrition at the West Virginia University Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Health. “The people that are well, they really don’t need the government’s advice.”