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New Products Feed Off Nation's Low-Carb Craze

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ATLANTA _ Javy Lopez can't say that cutting back on carbohydrates alone helped him hit 43 home runs and make baseball history with the Atlanta Braves this season. But the slugger does credit losing 35 pounds to giving him more energy and boosting his batting average and home run hitting.

"I was eating all kinds of crap," said Lopez. '`I cut the soda, cut the sugar and started eating lots of fish.''

While Lopez might be the most famous Atlantan living the low-carb lifestyle, he has plenty of company.

An estimated 26 million people across the nation have at least tried the low-carb diet that favors meat, cheese and fats over starches, first espoused 30 years ago by Dr. Robert Atkins. And the number of low-carb products has soared in the wake of research two years ago that his plan has merit.

Today, Good Humor-Breyers plans to officially unveil the latest on that product list: a low-carb ice cream in three flavors that's already appeared in some grocery stores. The company will also offer low-carb chocolate ice cream bars in its Klondike line.

''It's definitely in response to consumers' tastes'' said Good Humor-Breyers spokeswoman Lisa Piasecki. Consumers are demanding low-carbohydratesacross all product categories,'' she said.

According to Productscan, a marketing research firm in Naples, New York, more than 800 new low-carb products have appeared on the market in the past two years.

Miss those croutons in that carb-correct salad you eat? Keto Foods has a replacement for you.

Michelob has a low-carb beer. Hardee's is test marketing a low-carb burger, and Don Pablo's restaurant chain, based in Cincinnati, is ready to unfold a special low-carb fajita, with chicken wrapped in lettuce rather than a tortilla. The chain also is experimenting with _ are you ready, Jimmy Buffett _ a low-carb margarita.

In Georgia, a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby International telephone poll of 500 likely voters found that 54.2 percent said they had decreased the amount of carbs they eat. In and around Atlanta, some restaurants have been responding to the renewed low-carb mania.

Bob Light, a pastry chef who owns Pastries A Go Go in Decatur, said said he has become accustomed to patrons coming into his bakery and restaurant but not wanting bread.

They want the Go Go sandwich with no bread,'' Light said.I thought it was very strange at first, but whatever. We give them want they want.''

Balance Restaurant in Midtown features a low-carb plate, and BluePointe offers a meat and salad at lunch.

``We were doing it as a trial, but it's taken off so well that we're going to keep it,'' said assistant manager Stephen Pouleris assistant manager.

Atkins, the father of low-carb eating who died in April after suffering a fall, believed that sugar, refined flour and even seemingly innocent carbohydrates like the ones in a banana are the root of all evil. Others have offered their own version of low-carb diets, including Dr. Arthur Agatston, guru of the South Beach diet, and Dr. Phil McGraw, Oprah Winfrey's popular sidekick. Books by all three men are among the top five sellers in the self-help book category, and one of Atkins' books stayed on the best seller list for five years.

Many people have said they like the low-carb diets because they feel full with all the cheese, meat and salads they can stuff into their tummies.

Marketing and testimonials aside, many in the medical community are not convinced that cutting out carbohydrates, food's most potent energy source, is wise.

``These diets really haven't been studied enough scientifically,'' said Laurence Sperling, director of preventive cardiology at Emory University. The high-protein, high-fat eating that is the basis for many of the low-carb diets can have adverse effects on many, he said.

Also, they are hard to stay on for a long time, he said, ``because you run out of energy.''

Lopez said his weight dropped so much that summer that he was getting ``too skinny'' and began to eat more sandwiches and bread.

Still, Sperling said the diets may be OK for a few weeks if not for an entire season.

It probably is not such an evil thing short-term,'' said.If you're looking to lose 15 pounds for your high school reunion, you're probably OK.''

Virginia Anderson writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail:

Cox News Service

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