Report on low carb, healthy eating and obesity

Low carb, healthy eating and obesity - a report for the food industry on the implications of the Atkins Diet and other low carb and healthy eating market trends.

Low carb is not a fad but a long term trend which is changing the face of the diet and healthy eating products market. Detailed understanding of low carb diets, low carb science and the wider influence of the low carb revolution on consumer buying behaviour is imperative for success in this new environment.


This report looks at the opportunities and threats for the UK food industry which arise from the Atkins/low carbohydrate diet phenomenon, set within the context of the many other trends and influences affecting attitudes towards diet and the health of the nation.

Target readership

This report will be of interest to food manufacturers, technologists, retailers, caterers and ingredient suppliers. It will also be valuable for media writers and business analysts needing an enhanced understanding of what low carbing is all about and its significance for the future of healthy eating and the UK food industry.

Executive summary

The UK food industry is facing an era of unprecedented change. Not only is the low fat focused weight loss sector under threat from the low carb diet phenomenon, but the healthy eating credentials of the entire industry are coming under scrutiny as the Government considers measures to tackle escalating rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This report explains why the industry should take the low carb phenomenon seriously. It also provides valuable insights into the threats and opportunities of the emerging low carb market, set within the context of these wider healthy eating concerns.

The report considers the potential size and development of the low carb market in the UK in the light of the actual experience of the US. This is where the Atkins and most other low carb diets originated and the development of the multi-billion dollar US low carb market is already well under way.

The US experience is used to highlight product areas which are likely to come under threat from the trend, and to illustrate other issues such as labelling, advertising and branding which may have adverse consequences for the unwary. The report includes detailed information on the foods and drinks that low carbers want, the likely impact of the low carb trend on existing product areas, and opportunities for new products. Information is also provided on technological developments relevant to the low carb market and on critical issues such as the use of artificial sweeteners and polyols.

In order for companies to assess the opportunities and threats that the low carb trend represents for them individually, a detailed understanding of the buying behaviour of low carbers is necessary. However the Atkins and other low carb diets are based on relatively complex scientific principles which translate in practice into a way of eating that is very different to what has been understood as 'healthy eating' for the past decades. This makes it easy for companies to make expensive mistakes based on an inadequate understanding of what low carbing is really all about. Moreover, what constitutes healthy eating is itself undergoing change. For these reasons detailed background information is provided which:

  • Explains how low carb diets work
  • Demystifies terms such as ketosis and glycemic index
  • Lists which diets are low carb
  • Clarifies the relationship between low carb and low glycemic index diets
  • Explains upcoming influences on healthy eating
  • Provides detailed insights into the products low carbers want

Official medical and governmental healthy eating advice, although noticeably softening its stance towards low carb, does not yet recognise low carb as a valid option for healthy eating. This is another crucial issue in any decision to enter the low carb market. The Government's stated intention to take wide-ranging measures to tackle obesity, diabetes and heart disease makes for further uncertainty. To make informed long term decisions therefore it is imperative to be fully aware of the weight of scientific evidence that is gathering in favour of low carb diets. To this end this report provides answers and insights on the following topics:

  • The reasons behind worldwide increasing obesity trends
  • Current UK healthy eating advice and how it came about
  • Why reducing carbohydrates is more likely to reduce obesity
  • How the low carb movement is about more than just weight loss
  • Revisions to healthy eating advice under consideration in the US and elsewhere
  • Landmark studies supporting low carb science
  • Studies overturning the accepted wisdom about the dangers of dietary fats
  • Upcoming legislation in the US and Canada in respect of trans fats
  • Why and how low carb diets have become so popular in defiance of healthy eating advice
  • The need for the food advertising industry to take more proactive responsibility.

Table of contents

1 - Should obesity concern the food industry?

  • Worldwide concern about diet and obesity
  • Obesity in the UK
  • The causes of obesity
  • Diet, obesity and the food industry

2 - Low carb and healthy eating

  • The history of weight loss and healthy eating theory
  • Which diets are low carb
  • The Atkins Diet
  • The science behind the Atkins and other low carb diets
  • Ketosis
  • Net carbs
  • Low GI (glycemic index) diets
  • The glycemic index
  • Which diets are based on the low GI principle
  • Atkins - the evidence
  • Proposed changes in US healthy eating advice
  • Why have low carb diets become so popular?
  • Other health problems favouring a low carb approach
  • Other trends in weight loss and healthy eating
  • Is low carb the new healthy eating?
  • What low carbers eat

3 - Low carb - fad or trend

4 - The American experience

  • Low carb in the US - the early years
  • Effects of the low carb trend
  • The US market for low carb products
  • Fad or trend - US marketeers' view
  • Restaurants and fast food chains
  • Shops, supermarkets and drugstores
  • Low fat/low calorie diet product manufacturers
  • Vending machines and ready made meals
  • US hotels, airlines and cruises
  • Emerging technology in US/Canada
  • Trade organisations and magazines
  • Labelling and trademark/branding issues

5 - The Canadian experience

  • The market for low carb products
  • Canadian food manufacturers and retailers
  • The regulatory environment for low carb products
  • Other healthy eating trends

6 - Will the UK low carb market follow the US?

  • Consumer attitudes towards low carb diets
  • Consumer attitudes towards fast foods and pre-prepared meals
  • Attitude of the mainstream medical establishment towards low carb diets
  • Governmental attitudes towards diet, obesity and health
  • Small businesses versus large corporations

7 - The UK market for low carb products

  • Market size
  • What's happening so far in the UK
  • Exploiting the low carb market
  • Diet, healthy eating and the UK food industry - the future

8 - Detailed listing of product opportunities

  • Baked goods
  • Baking ingredients
  • Cooking aids and kitchen equipment
  • Dairy products, dairy based desserts and ice creams
  • Dietary supplements
  • Drinks
  • Eggs
  • Fats and oils
  • Fish
  • Game
  • Grains
  • Laboratory testing services
  • Meat
  • Miscellaneous products
  • Modified 'natural' foods
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Organic foods
  • Poultry
  • Pulses/legumes
  • Restaurants, fast food and other catering
  • Salads, vegetables and fruits
  • Seafood
  • Snacks and sweets
  • Sweeteners

9 - Conclusions

Appendix 1 - What Atkins dieters can eat

Appendix 2 - Typical Atkins menu plan

Methodology and sources

The information in this report is based on published food, diet and health related press releases and media articles provided by Internet news services and industry newsletters. It also draws on insights into consumer attitudes gained from interactions with the many low carb websites and Internet forums, and the extensive personal knowledge base built up over twenty years by the author on the topics of nutrition and dieting.

About the Author

Jackie Bushell is a committed long term Atkins dieter, with many years' practical experience of low carb and other diets. The founder of Low Carb is, she is also an experienced low carb cook and author of the Low Carb is Easy Interactive Cookbook, which is helping low carbers to make the change to their new way of eating all over the English-speaking world.

About Low Carb is

Low Carb is is a popular and well-respected online information and support resource about healthy eating and weight loss the low carbohydrate way. Although numerous studies have disproved the widespread belief that low carb diets are ineffective and unhealthy, much of the misinformation still exists. New and potential low carbers therefore face a morass of confusing and conflicting information. They also have to learn a whole new way of thinking in the kitchen at the same time as coping with the difficulties of shopping for low carb ingredients or eating outside the home. The objectives of Low Carb is are to help ease these problems by providing low carbers with information, hints and tools including the unique Low Carb is Easy Interactive Cookbook, and by providing low carb information, consultancy and advertising opportunities to the food industry.

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Low Carb, Healthy Eating and Obesity - Implications for the Food Industry

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