Whether it's nutritionally sound or not, "low-carb" is the current diet buzzword. And consumers needed a something to complement their low-carb lifestyles.
Now they're lapping up a new breed of beverages. Fueled by the popularity of low-carb diet such as Atkins, the Zone and Sugar Busters, this latest class caters to drinkers who want to keep their social schedules packed without packing on the pounds from carbs via sugars and starches.
Michelob Ultra low-carb beer rolled out nationally last September with the line "Lose the carbs. Not the taste." Since then, ads featuring svelte men and women in various stages of working out have emerged everywhere.
The message hits not only young adults trying to maintain trim figures but also older consumers battling sluggish metabolisms. But beer isn't the only whistle-wetter being marketed as a nighttime match to active drinkers' daytime lifestyles. "Doc's" Hard Lemon is available in a lower-carb, low-cal version; Long Beach Brewing Co. has developed Thin Ice, a citrusy malt beverage with 1 gram of carbohydrates; and Red Bull energy drink now has a 10-calorie sugar-free version.
Do these products really make a difference? Or is it just a case of savvy marketers cashing in on the low-carb rage? Marion Nestle, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, thinks so. "This is total hype!," says Nestle. "People are going to think they're having diet foods. To me, this is an effort to get people to drink more. This is a 'Drink more' message."
Although Nestle is not against "moderate, responsible drinking," she believes that "alcohol manufacturers go to a great deal of trouble to make people think alcohol has no calories. By saying they're low-carbohydrate, I think they're being misleading. Alcohol is a carbohydrate, and in the body, is typically metabolized...into fat!"
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