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As many as 24 million U.S. adults may be on low-carbohydrate diets like those by best-selling authors Robert Atkins and Arthur Agatston - enough people to affect food industry decisions and commodity prices, a research firm said.
About 11 percent of U.S. adults are following a diet that restricts grains, pastas, fruits and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, according to results from about 1,800 adults responding to a poll by Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm Opinion Dynamics Corp.
An additional 19 percent of respondents said they probably would try such a diet in the next two years.
The shift in eating habits is cutting into sales of products such as bread and orange juice and forcing food and beverage producers to cater to the new preferences.
General Mills Inc., the second-biggest U.S. cereal maker, is introducing products with more protein and fewer carbohydrates, and Adolph Coors Cos. will start selling its low-carbohydrate Aspen Edge beer in March.
"This shows the low-carb diet has really become mainstream and is likely to have a permanent effect on our eating habits, much like the low-fat craze that swept the country a few years ago," Lawrence Shiman, a director at Opinion Dynamics, said in a telephone interview. "It's clearly having an impact on consumption patterns."
Followers of the Atkins diet or Agatston's South Beach program limit or eliminate carbohydrates and sugars, instead opting for protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs and cheese.
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