For many who are restricted by low-carb diets, Dreamfields’ “healthy carb living” pasta is a dream come true. According to its packaging, the pasta only has five grams of carbs per serving, and tastes just as good as regular pasta.
The doctors found that patients who ate either type of pasta experienced identical spikes in blood sugar levels, which decreased over time at the same rate.
The packaging touts that a “patent-pending formula and unique manufacturing process creates a matrix within the pasta, protecting 31 grams of carbohydrates from being digested.” As a result, the pasta “helps limit the rise in blood sugar levels that normally occur after eating regular pasta.”
While those claims made Dreamfields $14.6 million in sales during 2007, it looks like they may not be entirely true. On Tuesday, the pasta-maker agreed to pay $8 million to settle allegations that it falsely advertised its pasta as a low-carb, healthy option that can help diabetics and pre-diabetics stabilize their blood sugar levels.
In fact, independent studies on Dreamfields pasta prove just the opposite, concluding that typical pasta and the company’s low-carb pasta had “essentially identical” impacts on consumers’ blood sugar levels, according to the lawsuit.
The first investigation into these claims came from Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, who performed a self-test with Dreamfields pasta by monitoring his blood sugar levels after eating his meal. The results, published on his website Diet Doctor, showed that two portions of the pasta made his blood sugar levels skyrocket. After seven-and-a-half hours, they still had not stabilized.
Not long after Dr. Eenfeldt’s study, Drs. Frank Q. Nuttall and Mary C. Gannon, who lead a research group that develops diets for diabetics, became interested in recommending Dreamfields pasta to their patients. After “several unsuccessful attempts” to see Dreamfields’ own study results supporting the claims, the doctors took it upon themselves to determine whether the pasta truly was low-carb. In the doctors’ study, 20 participants were served either Dreamfields pasta or traditional white pasta, and their blood sugar levels were recorded prior to eating and for three hours after the meal.
The doctors found that patients who ate either type of pasta experienced identical spikes in blood sugar levels, which decreased over time at the same rate. Drs. Nuttall and Gannon concluded that “the Dreamfields pasta product we purchased did not result in an improved glucose excursion when compared with a commercially available traditional pasta product as would have been expected based on the company’s claim.”
Even after the study by Drs. Nuttall and Gannon was published in the journal Diabetes Care, the company continued to “stand behind the nutritional claims of its low-carb pasta.” The plaintiffs, however, allege that the results of scientific studies on which the company bases its low-carb claims were never even released:
“[W]hen the company announced in February 2005 that an ‘Independent Validation Study Clarifies Carb Confusion,’ Defendants never actually made the results of that study available to the public. In fact, Defendants did not disclose any data from that study, even in a summary fashion. Although the press release stated that ‘Dreamfields Company, LLC is proud to release the scientific information that explains and proves the digestible carb impact of their breakthrough Dreamfields pasta brand,’ the rest of the press release, comically, does not include any such results.”
Lucky for consumers, the settlement Dreamfields agreed to this week will provide refunds for those who purchased the pasta. Consumers who purchased any of Dreamfields low-carb pasta products in-store can submit claims for $1.99 reimbursements for up to 15 boxes, and those who purchased the pasta online can submit an unlimited number of reimbursement claims.
The settlement also requires Dreamfields to remove all statements on its pasta boxes that claim the product has a lower glycemic index than traditional pastas, that it can reduce spikes in blood sugar levels, and that it only has five grams of digestible carbohydrates.
There is one catch, though: the settlement only requires Dreamfields to remove these claims for one year following the judgment. So consumers who notice similar claims reappearing on Dreamfields pasta boxes in coming years may have to be cautious, or simply opt for a truly low-carb dish of spaghetti squash instead.