Whether because of diet or pre-existing conditions, Americans following a low-carb regimen are more likely to suffer from gastro-intestinal distress, allergies, anxiety and depression than the general population, according to research by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).
These dieters also report higher rates of hypoglycaemia, fibromyalgia, headaches and asthma, according to the recently released survey. These health issues are creating a window of opportunity for food formulators and supplements manufacturers that can develop products to address possible consequences of low-carb dieting, the NMI concluded.
?Twenty four per cent of Americans can be classified as what we call low-carb weight managers (LCWMs),? said Steve French, managing partner at NMI.
?We know that this group is already predisposed to the usage of functional foods and beverages. They are 8 per cent more likely to buy functional foods and 10 per cent more likely to buy fortified foods and take a daily vitamin supplement.
?What this means is you have a very nice group of consumers with health issues predisposed to speciality foods and supplements.?
According to the randomised survey of 2,000 households, 27 per cent of LCWMs suffer from indigestion, versus 19 per cent of the general population (GP)—an 8 percentage point difference. They are 3.1 per cent more likely to be lactose intolerant and 2.9 per cent more likely to have gastritis problems.
For non-GI conditions, LCWMs also suffer at higher rates than their GP counterparts.
LCWMs suffer from seasonal allergies at a 9.1 per cent higher rate than the GP and are 5 per cent more likely to suffer from food allergies. They are 3.4 per cent more likely to report anxiety, 2.5 per cent more likely to have hypoglycaemia, 2 per cent more likely to report fibromyalgia and 1.5 per cent more likely to suffer from depression.
A cursory review of published research shows some other possible consequences of low-carb dieting, which functional foods and supplements makers could address, French said. Among them: kidney strain, high cholesterol, mineral deficiencies, bad breath, osteoporosis and muscle spasms.
Currently, there are few products on the market that are addressing specific health needs of low-carb dieters, said Laurie Kuntz, CEO of the LowCarbiz industry newsletter.
?We are not seeing low-carb products with other functional benefits at this point,? she said. ?But you will be seeing it happen among smaller manufacturers in the future; they have the ability to start reaching into these niche markets because they don?t have huge overhead.?
Among the first niche products will be low-carb foods that are also gluten-free or reduced-fat, she predicted, as well as more meat-free products.
Major low-carb food manufacturers such as Atkins and Keto Foods do offer specially tailored supplements for low-carb dieters, and Bayer HealthCare recently launched One-A-Day Carbsmart multivitamin, containing added nutrients for reduced-carb diets.