One of the things that frustrates me more than anything else in the low-carb community is all of the food products that are marketed to consumers as “low-carb” and don’t even come close. Without a crystal clear public definition of what that term actually means (although researchers have already brought great clarity to it), it really does come down to individual carbohydrate tolerance levels for people. And that number can vary widely from person to person with some who are able to consume a low-carb diet with upwards of 100-130g carbohydrates daily while others need to consume a more ketogenic level of carbohydrates perhaps as low as 10-20g carbohydrates daily. That’s what makes living the low-carb lifestyle a never-ending experiment to find the sweet spot for the level of fat, protein and carbohydrates that works for you. Once you discover what’s right for you, then it’s just a matter of doing it.
But what if a company promoting a “low-carb” X product makes a claim on their packaging that X contains just 1g net carbs (total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber) and you begin eating this product trusting that it will have no impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels as well as your weight? Should you just blindly believe that their nutritional label is 100% accurate or that it’s close enough not to worry about it? Unfortunately, many people do think that if something were wrong with it then they would be caught by the FDA which oversees food labeling. That would be a BIG MISTAKE! As I quickly discovered for myself when I began my n=1 experiments in 2011, things are not always as they seem when it comes to the “low-carb” products.
The first product to bite the dust in my testing was Dreamfields Pasta which claimed to contain only 5g digestible carbohydrates but responded exactly the same as regular white pasta (a finding that my friend “The Diet Doctor” Andreas Eenfeldt discovered for himself). Next up on my blood sugar testing agenda was the Julian Bakery SmartCarb Breads touted quite prominently as “low-carb” with just 1g net carb for the #1 plain bread and 2g net carbs for the #2 cinnamon raisin bread. When I used coconut oil and cheese to make homemade grilled cheese sandwiches with this bread (as many low-carber using low-carb bread would do), the results weren’t good at all for the Julian Bakery breads. The spikes from consuming these “low-carb” breads were more pronounced than when I had tested regular white and wheat bread and the SmartCarb breads even led to a hypoglycemic reaction. YIKES! Click here for an interview I conducted with Julian Bakery representative Heath Squire after I published the results of my testing who claimed that my n=1 results were bogus because he said it was the coconut oil and cheese that spiked my blood sugar. So to appease him I retested consuming the Julian Bakery SmartCarb Breads alone and the blood sugar spikes were even worse than in my original n=1 experiment! I had my answer. The facts speak for themselves and many of my readers were appreciative that I warned them against consuming these Julian Bakery breads being heavily marketed to them as a safe “low-carb” option. Simply. Not. True.
So why am I bringing this up again in 2012? Well, it turns out that a customer of Julian Bakery read my blog posts from last year about these “low-carb” breads and got inspired to not only test her own blood sugar after consuming the SmartCarb #1 bread but also pay for a very expensive nutritional analysis from America’s best food testing company Euro Fins via Exova to see if the claims made by Julian Bakery match the reality of the label they put on their bread. The lady doing this is 64-year old Deborah Krueger from Portland, Oregon who is a former bakery manager and chef who happens to be pre-diabetic and controls her blood sugar levels “strictly by diet” with the use of no medications. She was curious about the claims made by Julian Bakery about their bread marketed to low-carbers and picked up a loaf of the SmartCarb #1 bread at her local Whole Foods Market. Her intention was to consume two slices of the “1g net carb” bread all by itself just as I had done in my second n=1 experiment for two consecutive days testing her blood sugar at fasting and then every 30 minutes for two hours. But after the readings she received over a 4-hour period on Saturday, May 19, 2012, Deborah thought better of it! Using her One-Touch Ultra glucometer at fasting and every half-hour afterward, here’s what happened to her blood sugar:
As you can see, she very quickly went from pre-diabetic fasting blood sugar levels to the “three highest blood glucose readings” (234, 249 and 209) she had ever recorded since keeping a daily track dating back to September 2010. Obviously, Deborah was devastated and did not complete her planned second day of testing. But like I shared above, she decided to take matters into her own hands to get to the bottom of what happened to her blood sugar to bring it to this historically high level with a product that should have only impacted her minimally with the claim that two slices of SmartCarb #1 bread from Julian Bakery contain just 2g net carbohydrates. That’s when she send samples of this bread to Exova on Monday, May 21, 2012 to examine what the actual nutritional facts are on the product. The following is a detailed account of what comprises the SmartCarb #1 bread from this independent testing lab:
One thing that really jumped out to me is the percentage of carbohydrate that comprises this bread is nearly HALF of the nutritional intake (with another 37% of the bread containing moisture). Granted, some of that carbohydrate content is fiber, it’s not as much of it as Julian Bakery claims. If that graphic above isn’t as easy to follow, check out this side-by-side comparison of the nutritional label that is currently being used on the packaging for SmartCarb #1 bread on the left juxtaposed with what the nutritional label should actually be according to the test results from Exova on the right:
WOW! Now let’s take a look at that comparison in graph form so you can see the disparity, especially in the net carbs:
Are you sensing the severity in the differences between what Julian Bakery is claiming and what is actually true now? Let’s look just how far off they are in honestly labeling their “low-carb” breads:
Needless to say, Deborah went from flabbergasted to furious when she learned she had been duped by a company making claims to people like her who consider it life or death to be accurate about counting her carbohydrates to keep her health in order. She has reported the company to the FDA for violating food labeling laws and sent her story to multiple national news media outlets to expose Julian Bakery as a fraudulent company. You can see how impassioned Deborah is in this excerpt from a letter she sent to Heath Squire at Julian Bakery about what she learned about the products he is selling:
I am not interested in your “panel of experts” and I am not interested in your sending me to other websites or other blogs. I have been there and read plenty enough to get the picture. I am also not interested in the fact that you use chicory root as your source of fiber as it has 1 carb for each 1 gram of fiber. It has the same net zero carb effect as other sources of fiber. I am not interested in your statement that 85% of people have good experiences with your bread. From what I have read, most people seem to be in that unlucky 15%. How much more irresponsible could you possible be?
Your bread is being sold nationwide and you are playing havoc with the health and the lives of millions of unsuspecting people who are diabetic, pre-diabetic or trying to carefully follow a low-carb diet. If they are unable to trust the FDA required food labels-what are they able to trust? You and your company are the reason the FDA made companies put food labels on their packages in the first place.
You and your company, Julian Bakery, are perpetrating one of the food industries greatest hoaxes (one might assume for the sake of money). I am going to try to stop it.
At this point, Deborah has the following list of expectations based on all the information she has gathered about the SmartCarb #1 breads and ostensibly the entire line of Julian Bakery breads that make any health claims:
1. Immediately cease sales of all Julian Bakery Bread.
2. Take down all descriptions and nutritional facts labels from your web site until you have had each of your breads certified by a reputable outside testing company.
3. Completely change the names of your breads because of their brand recognition. People have come to rely on the names and do not read the nutritional facts label every time they buy a loaf of your bread.
4. Apologize to the hundred of companies you have sold products to.
5. Recall, at your expense, all Julian Bakery products from retail/wholesale store shelves.
Until these actions are taken, Deborah has resolved to keep making noise and telling anyone and everyone she can about this very serious breach of trust by a company claiming to care about the health of its customers. She wasn’t finished with her warnings to Julian Bakery:
How much money do you think you and your company, Julian Bakery, is costing the American taxpayer in health costs? The government is cracking down on the biggest companies, but thus far your bakery must still be flying under their radar. I am going to try to bring you onto that radar screen.
And you know what? I believe her! Let this be a word to the wise for consumers out there: BUYER BEWARE! Yes, read labels (or choose real, whole foods that don’t have a label optimally) and always test your blood sugar on anything that you think might be iffy. That’s the best way to know how something is impacting YOUR body–the ultimate n=1 test! And to food manufacturers out there who are marketing products as “low-carb” to an unsuspecting group of consumers, let this be a lesson to you to be completely honest in your product labeling and to be aware of any issues that could be of concern to groups of people consuming your products. Most people who are eating a high-fat, low-carb diet already tend to have a greater sensitivity to carbohydrates so what you list on the label had better darn well be correct. If you’re not sure, then pay for the third party test to get the most accurate measurements. This issue is too important to ignore!
What do YOU my readers think about this turn of events surrounding Julian Bakery breads which still sadly shows up prominently in Google search engine ads and elsewhere on the Internet when you search for “low-carb bread?” Share your thoughts about this in the comments section below. Let ‘er rip!
6-29-12 UPDATE: Several people have written to me telling me about some “better” breads that Julian Bakery makes that are probably more appropriate for people on a Paleo and/or low-carb lifestyle. Okay, fair enough and perhaps that is true. Heath contacted me a month or two ago offering a sample of these “new and improved” breads to try…but I’m just not interested and here’s why: If they’re so blatantly lying about the nutritional label on their SmartCarb breads marketed as “low-carb,” then what stops them from being equally dishonest about these new Paleo breads now? If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck…well, you know the rest. As I stated above, BUYER BEWARE!