CONSUMERLAB.COM REPORTS ON NUTRITION BARS
— Highlights Major Differences, Inaccuracies, and Urges Consumers to "Know Your Bar" —
WHITE PLAINS, NY — February 8, 2005 — ConsumerLab.com reported test results today for 34 nutrition bars, including those designed for high protein, low-carb/diet, energy, or meal-replacement. In 2001, the independent testing group found most bars to be mislabeled, with many containing undeclared carbohydrates. The latest testing found one product with 33% more carbohydrates than claimed, two bars each with about one extra gram of saturated fat, and a bar with three and one-half grams of the sugar alcohol lactitol that was not listed on the label. The other bars, representing the majority tested, met their claims.
In addition to identifying label inaccuracies, the report draws attention to the vast nutritional differences among products now on the market. "Bars can be a good, occasional source of nutrition for people on the go, but they can vary drastically from one another in their content," said Tod Cooperman, M.D. ConsumerLab.com's president. "People need to "know their bar" to be sure it has what they need without unwanted ingredients," he added. Some of the key differences found among the bars were:
- "Net carbs" and sugar alcohols — For "low-carb" dieters, many bars displayed a "net carb" calculation that excluded carbohydrates thought to have less impact on blood sugar levels. This practice has been neither sanctioned nor stopped by the FDA (which also has not authorized the term "low-carb" in labeling). Total carbohydrates in such products often exceed twenty grams per bar, while the "net carbs" displayed are often only two or three grams. The carbs not counted, typically glycerin and sugar alcohols, still add calories and can easily account for one-quarter of the bar's weight. Some sugar alcohols, such as lactitol, can have a laxative effect.
- "Bad" fats — At least half the fat in most bars was saturated fat. Saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and the USDA recommends that less than 10% of total daily calories should come from saturated fat, which means less that less than one-third of dietary fat should be saturated. As a reference, a product claiming to be "Low in Saturated Fat" must have less than one gram of saturated fat per serving. Most products had two to six grams of saturated fat. Amounts of trans fats, also considered "bad" for the heart, were generally not listed. These can be spotted, however, by looking for "hydrogenated" ingredients.
- Added vitamins — Many bars were vitamin-fortified. If you take other vitamins or fortified products (such as fortified breakfast cereals or vitamin waters) be careful not to exceed tolerable levels. For example, over 10,000 IU of vitamin A (as retinol) daily may weaken bones. And don't give highly fortified bars to young children — the tolerable level of vitamin A for a 3 year old, for example, is only 2,000 IU per day, while a bar with 50% of the adult daily value (DV) already contains 1,500 IU.
- Bar as a meal — If you're replacing a meal with a bar, be sure it contains enough energy. Calories ranged from as much as 330 down to only 110, depending on bar size and ingredients. Adults need about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. If a large amount of a low or no calorie sweetener is used, even large bars may leave you hungry. And be sure you get enough protein — which ranged from 3 to 35 grams among bars studied. You need at least 50 grams of protein per day.
The new report is found at www.consumerlab.com/results/nutbars.asp. Test results are shown for each product, including comparisons of nutritional content and ingredients. ConsumerLab.com selected nineteen of the products in the report and fifteen others were tested at the request of their manufacturers/distributors. Reviews of other popular types of supplements are also available from at www.consumerlab.com and new reviews soon to be released include omega- 3 & 6 fatty acids (from black current, borage, evening primrose, and flaxseed oils), supplements used for menopause (including isoflavones, progesterone cream, and black cohosh), nutrition powders and drinks, B vitamins, and vitamin C. The paperback ConsumerLab.com's Guide to Buying Vitamins and Supplements: What's Really in the Bottle? is available in bookstores, online, or through 800-431-1579.
ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in White Plains, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. ConsumerLab.com is affiliated with PharmacyChecker.com (www.pharmacychecker.com), an evaluator of online pharmacies. Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online. For group subscriptions, Technical Reports, or product testing contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ConsumerLab.com, LLC, 2005. All rights reserved.
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