PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, U.S. — A majority of Americans believe carbohydrates must be eliminated for a slimming diet to be effective. That was among the findings of a Gallup Poll survey commissioned by the Wheat Foods Council (WFC) in cooperation with the American Bakers Association (ABA). Judi Adams, WFC president, presented the findings from the biennial survey at the general session of the ABA’s annual meeting in Palm Beach.

"Our products have an image problem," Adams said. Meanwhile, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets enjoy something of a "Teflon image" in consumers’ minds, she said. Of the 1,000 consumers surveyed, 56% said high-protein diets are effective, and 61% said they are safe.

Data comparing consumer attitudes in 2002 with those prevailing from earlier studies proved equally troubling for grain-based foods. Respondents who think that complex carbohydrates are good for them measured 63% in 2002, versus 76% in 1996. Those who think that bread is fattening rose to 56% in 2002 from 38% in 1996%. Those who think that pasta is fattening rose to 54% from 29% in 1996, and those who think that carbohydrates should be avoided climbed to 48% from 36%.

On a positive note, Adams said that only 15% of respondents (in a different Gallup poll) in 2002 were on the Atkins diet — which advocates eating high-protein foods while shunning carbohydrates — down from 26% in 2001. In addition, while 75% of Americans think that high-protein diets promote short-term weight loss, they also acknowledge that maintaining the weight loss from these diets may be difficult. Despite this realization, there is no ignoring the public’s worsening attitude toward grain-based foods, Adams said. Consumers "have it in their minds that carbohydrates are fattening and that they need to cut carbs to lose weight," she said. "(This belief) is becoming mainstream, and that’s scary."