They announced a new group on Tuesday, called the Partnership for Essential Nutrition, to help educate Americans about the need for healthy carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.

"When unproven science becomes a sales pitch, some people get rich and the rest of us get ripped off," Jeffrey Prince of the American Institute for Cancer Research told a news conference.

"Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, which are all predominantly carbohydrate, is linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a range of other
chronic diseases."

Prince said low-carb diets that advocate piling on animal protein and fat are "increasing the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and other chronic diseases".

New group forms

The new group includes such organizations as the Alliance for Aging Research, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, the AICR and the American Obesity Association.

"When unproven science becomes a sales pitch, some people get rich and the rest of us get ripped off"

Jeffrey Prince,
American Institute for Cancer Research

Its web site, essentialnutrition.org is especially critical of programmes such as the Atkins diet that advocate throwing the body into a condition called ketosis. During this phase the body sheds water as it tries to get rid of excess protein and breakdown fat products.

"Losing weight on these extreme low-carb diets can lead to such serious health problems as kidney stress, liver disorders and gout," the group advises.

The group published a survey of 1,017 adults, done by Opinion Research Corporation, that showed 19% of dieters are trying to cut carbs.

The survey found that 47% them believed that low-carb diets can help them lose weight without cutting calories.

'Lack of understanding'

"They are confused. They lack an understanding of the basic science," Barbara Moore, president of Shape Up America, told the news conference.

"Losing weight on these extreme low-carb diets can lead to such serious health problems as kidney stress, liver disorders and gout"

Essential Nutrition web site

She said a "trickle-down effect" meant other Americans were now eating fewer fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products."

The US government, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and American Diabetes Association all recommend getting at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. They also recommend eating plenty of whole grains.

The National Consumers League said it found dieters were spending an average of $85 a month on so-called low-carbohydrate products, although the US Food and Drug
Administration does not evaluate or regulate low-carb claims.

"Consumers are paying a premium price for a carb-friendly lifestyle," said Alison Rein of the National Consumers League.

She called for the FDA, US Department of Agriculture and other agencies to issue immediate interim guidelines on such claims.

Studies show that a low-carbohydrate approach can cause people to lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet for the first six months, but the low-fat approach catches up after a year.