A scandalous controversy of sorts has risen up in the low-carb community over the past week as news from the recently-concluded Low-Carb Cruise has begun to trickle out into the blogosphere and social networking sites about the topics discussed by the guest speakers. The most prominent and oft-repeated message that I’ve been seeing is something Swedish physician Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt shared at the very end of his lecture regarding this February 2011 Diabetes Care study that concluded the so-called “low-carb” pasta sold and marketed to people with diabetes and on low-carb diets by a company called Dreamfields Foods produces a similar blood sugar spike to traditional white pasta. If this is true, then it could be bad news for people on low-carb diets who are choosing to include Dreamfields pasta as part of their lifestyle change. So what is the real deal about this? I wanted to find out.
On Tuesday, I contacted one of the investigators on that study named Dr. Mary C. Gannon from the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center and the University of Minnesota who I had met several times at various Nutrition & Metabolism Society low-carb conferences over the years. This active researcher of low-carb diets (she refers to them as LoBAG-Low Biologically Available Glucose-in her work) confirmed that they did indeed conduct a study on the Dreamfields pasta because she wanted to know if it was a product she could use with her diabetic study subjects. When she inquired about the data confirming the claim that there are only 5g digestible carbohydrates in the Dreamfields pasta, Dr. Gannon told me she received no response back from the company. That’s when she and her fellow low-carb researcher Dr. Frank Nuttall (read Laura Dolson’s reporting on what he shared with her about their study here and here) decided to do this experiment comparing Dreamfields to traditional pasta.
I asked what they allowed the study participants to consume with the one 2-ounce serving of pasta and Dr. Gannon said matter-of-factly “salt and pepper only.” Ewww! Pasta needs butter, cheese, and marinara sauce to taste good, but I understand the need to isolate the pasta to see what the impact it will have on blood sugar levels. The results of the first round of her study on five “old people” with average fasting blood glucose levels of 110-112 were astonishing:
As you can see from the above graph, both the Dreamfields and traditional pasta produced similar spikes in blood sugar after consumption. Since this was an older crowd who may have had certain metabolic conditions that made their blood sugars more susceptible to this kind of response to the Dreamfields pasta, Dr. Gannon and Dr. Nuttall then decided to repeat the experiment again this time around with five “young people” with an average fasting blood glucose level of 96. Would they do any better? See for yourself:
While the blood sugar rise wasn’t nearly as pronounced as it was with the older study subjects, the conclusion was basically the same–the “low-carb” Dreamfields pasta produced a similar blood sugar curve as the traditional pasta. Granted, this was a very small study sample and it doesn’t necessarily prove anything regarding the claims made by the Dreamfields company about their product only having 5g of what they describe as “net effective carbs.” Since I had previously interviewed Dreamfields President Mike Crowley on my “Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast in August 2009, I decided to contact him back again to give him an opportunity to respond to this study and the concerns expressed by people like Dr. Eenfeldt who decided this week to translate his post from his popular Swedish blog about Dreamfields into English in a scathing column entitled “The Dreamfields’ Pasta Fraud.” Although he consumed twice the serving size (4 oz) of Dreamfields pasta in his n=1 experiment (the man is 6’7″ and has more energy needs than most of us), the results on his blood sugar are shocking to say the least:
That response to the Dreamfields pasta by a very fit late-30-something man made this 39-year old man want to try this experiment for himself, too. And so on Wednesday morning, I decided to whip out my handy dandy glucometer, check my fasting blood glucose number, eat me two ounces of Dreamfields penne rigate cooked for 8 minutes to prevent overcooking and seasoned with just sea salt and freshly ground pepper (YUCK!), and then test my blood sugar periodically over the next three hours. This morning I did the same test all over again prior to speaking with Mike Crowley from Dreamfields and I did it with traditional penne rigate pasta (which freaked me out when I stepped into my local grocery store to buy it–I kept looking around waiting for the carb police to show up and haul me away!). In comparing the blood sugar testing results I got consuming the Dreamfields with the traditional pasta, here’s what my graph looked like (special thanks to my very artistic wife Christine for drawing this for me):
Needless to say, this result floored me. I suppose I was hoping the claims regarding the “protected carbs” were true, but it doesn’t seem to be that way for Jimmy Moore either. The only way YOU can know how the Dreamfields pasta is going to impact you is to simply do the test for yourself. Some smart low-carbers like Tom Naughton made the wise decision to never touch the stuff, but others of us are a bit more hard-headed and hopeful that there are alternatives to our former favorite foods. Honestly, though, I haven’t missed pasta one bit and that experiment I’ve done the past couple of days with Dreamfields yesterday and traditional pasta today reminded me why–I was so ravenously hungry and craving food the entire time I was testing my blood sugars as early as 10 minutes after eating. That same reaction happened with BOTH the Dreamfields and the traditional pasta. Not good. Both days after the three-hour testing had concluded, I was immediately eating something so I wouldn’t pass out. It wasn’t a pretty sight and my blood sugar wasn’t even in hypoglycemic levels either. Sure felt like it though.
But, to be fair, I wanted to allow the President of Dreamfields to have an outlet for responding to the concerns about his company’s products in a special edition of my podcast which I will air soon on “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show.” This was too important not to get out there to you just as soon as possible, so I posted the 45-minute interview on YouTube for you this afternoon. Listen to what Mike Crowley has to say in response to the study by Dr. Gannon and Dr. Nuttall, his reaction to the readings that both Dr. Eenfeldt and I got doing our own n=1 experiments on the Dreamfields pasta, and his hopes and desires regarding further research and testing of his company’s products. Then decide for yourself whether you think Dreamfields pasta should be a part of your healthy low-carb lifestyle.