The Lowdown On Low-Carb Diets

America may be fascinated with fat, or fat busting, but, as CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports, we're also rather fickle.

Countless diets have come and gone, but the latest one seems so easy to swallow.

"High-protein, low-carbs," says dieter Elizabeth Smith.

"It makes you feel better, gives you more energy and you lose weight," says Kathy Williams.

Cutting carbohydrates is the nation's newest "diet doctrine." You'd have to be on a hunger strike not to notice it.

Forget the beer battles. They've been going on for years.

Now the nation's largest food chains are offering everything from low-carb delicacies to bunless burgers at the drive-thru.

Malowe's Restaurant, a Denver steak house, just started an entirely separate low-carb menu.

"The first day, 35 percent of our meals were low-carb," says Liza Mason.

"This is to food, what hi-tech was to Silicon Valley," says Dean Rotbart, of LowCarbiz.

Which is why the nation's first Low Carb Summit is now underway in Denver. The message: If America has found a better way to watch their bottoms, corporate America better watch its bottom line.

"I think by the end of 2004 it's going to be close to a $30 billion industry," says Rotbart.

From pizzas to marshmallows, thousands of low-carb products have created a booming market for specialty shops, like Low Carb Connection, where they even carry low-carb margarita mix.

Owner Nicole Kallio is so convinced that low-carb means high-cash, she's opened two stores in seven months.

And why not?

Low-carb diets do seem to work, and so far, health officials can't find any problem with them, save one: Americans ability to take what's worth doing and overdoing it.

Which is exactly what happened with the low-fat diet in the 90's.

"The low-fat craze taught us you can't buy 12 boxes of Snackwells, sit down in one sitting, eat them all and say, 'OK, because I'm on a low-fat diet and they're low fat Snackwells,'" says Rotbart.

After all, it's called a craze for a reason and "reason" is what even the low-carb gurus fear may get lost in the mix.
  • Jaime Holguin

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