The Truth About Dreamfields "Low-carb" Pasta

How a Lawsuit Forced a Company to Revise Misleading Labels

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A truly low-carb pasta is something of a Holy Grail for people with diabetes, especially those who tend to avoid this popular food because it can cause serious increases in levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It's not surprising then that in 2007 a pasta manufacturer called Dreamfields reported an impressive $14.6 million in sales after claiming its "Healthy Carb Living" pasta products might actually help to improve glucose levels.

Fast forward seven years, however, and Dreamfields found itself entangled in an $8 million class-action lawsuit for label fraud, forcing it to make substantial changes in how it markets and labels its products.

Having done so, Dreamfields' pasta is still available on grocery store shelves, but the story of the lawsuit underscores why it's vital for people with diabetes (or any other health issue that requires careful dietary management) to be savvy consumers. That means reading labels carefully and with a significant degree of skepticism about claims that seem too good to be true.

The Claims

Dreamfields got into hot water for several reasons. For one, it asserted that the "patent-pending formula and unique manufacturing process" used to make its products created "a matrix within the pasta, protecting 31 grams of carbohydrates from being digested."

In other words, the company asserted that anyone who ate its pasta wouldn't absorb all of the carbs it contained and therefore would not experience a rise in blood sugar levels that typically follows the ingestion of regular pasta.

According to the lawsuit, each box stated that the product inside had only "5 g Digestible Carbs per Serving" and a "65% Lower Glycemic Index" than other types of pasta.

Unfortunately, Dreamfields failed to publish proof that its pasta was effective in modulating blood sugar levels. What's more, when independent researchers tested the glycemic response of a small number of people to eating Dreamfields pasta, they found the subjects had the exact same glycemic response to Dreamfields as to other pasta.

The Fallout

These findings, published in the journal Diabetes Care in February 2011, were cited in the lawsuit brought against Dreamfields by four consumers who purchased its pasta based on the claims and then stopped buying it when they learned the claims were false. (Note that the study later was withdrawn by the authors—not because the findings were faulty but "because some of the data were obtained prior to receiving IRB [International Review Board] approval.")

Ultimately, according to the nonprofit ClassAction.org, Dreamfields was required to reimburse consumers who had bought their pasta $1.99 for up to 15 boxes, and 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."

The Bottom Line

Dreamfields pasta products—the line consists of seven common pasta shapes, from lasagna and linguini to spaghetti and rotini—are made from the same type of flour as regular pasta (enriched semolina). It has 41 grams of carbohydrate per one cup serving of cooked pasta—all of which are absorbed by the body.

However, Dreamfields also contains added inulin, a type of fiber found in fruits and vegetables that is purported to have a number of potential health benefits—including, based on very preliminary research, a positive effect on blood sugar levels. Dreamfields also has a bit more protein than other pasta brands and some B vitamins. (It is not gluten-free, however, and so is not safe for people with celiac disease.)

What does this mean for carb-counting consumers, especially people with diabetes? Nothing more than that everyone reacts differently to different foods, and so anyone who has diabetes should rely on testing their blood sugar levels two hours after every meal in order to manage their condition rather than believing too-good-to-be-true claims.

If you have diabetes and you've tried Dreamfields pasta and enjoy the way it tastes, and if after eating it you find it doesn't cause your glucose levels to spike in the same way as traditional pasta, there's no reason not to continue to eat it. However, you may want to talk to a certified diabetes educator or dietitian just to make sure Dreamfields is a healthy fit for your dietary repertoire.

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