US dried pasta maker New World Pasta is expected to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as this week as it struggles with mounting debt amid a downturn in sales.

The surge in popularity of low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins diet has dented pasta sales in the US, adding to New World Pasta's financial difficulties.

The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based company is expected to seek bankruptcy protection following nearly two years of financial trouble, including problems filing quarterly financial reports and debt of more than US$400m, reported the Wall Street Journal.

New World Pasta, whose brands include Prince, Ronzoni and San Giorgio, is majority-owned by US private equity firm JLL Partners.