If there ever was a better year for low-carb products it was 2004. Mintel's Global New Products Database (Chicago) reports that compared to 2003 (in which some 130 low-carb products were launched January through October), dieters in 2004 witnessed the launch, reformulation or repositioning of more than 10 times that many low-carb products in the same time frame.

The low-carb phenomenon also is responsible for the “overnight success” stories many ingredients experienced in 2004. Products bearing sucralose and sugar alcohols put the sweet back into the grocery aisles. Protein popularity increased as whey and soy became obvious substitutes not only for animal proteins but also carbs. All the while, less common ingredients like flax, inulin and resistant starches found their way into the annals of dietary fiber reformulations.

Even more surprising is the renewed love affair many dieters are having with fat. Despite government endorsements against trans fatty acids, less regard has been given to the ills of saturated fat in some low-carb circles. Fortunately, low-carb trends also show that other health enthusiasts differentiate between good and bad fats. Regardless, fat as a whole is no longer considered a macronutrient to avoid.

Given all of the new dieting ideology, it will be interesting to discover what the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will present in the sixth edition of Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to be released tentatively in January 2005. Whatever they suggest, there is no doubt that 2004--the year of low-carb--had its influence, and that what is recommended will directly affect the next dieting trend.

A September 2004 report released by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has caused some to speculate that calories again will be touted as the most important element of weight control--not the proportions of carbohydrates, fat and protein in the diet. It appears possible that the only nutrient to have its daily value lowered could be salt, from 2400mg to 2300mg/day.

Although the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion proposes developing a graphic symbol that may or may not resemble the familiar Food Guide Pyramid, no mention was given as to how it would represent the relationship between carbohydrates and dietary fibers which, as it stands, are lumped together at the base of the pyramid. Such a differentiation would make a world of difference for consumers and food formulators alike.