SIXTY PERCENT OF NUTRITION BARS FAIL TO MEET CLAIMS IN CONSUMERLAB.COM TESTS —
"Low Carb" Bars Often Loaded with Carbohydrates; Excess Sodium and Saturated Fat Also Found —
WHITE PLAINS, NY — October 30, 2001 — ConsumerLab.com, an independent evaluator of dietary supplements and nutrition products, released results today of its Nutrition Bar Product Review. Often marketed as protein bars, energy bars, meal replacement bars, or diet bars, these products have become as ubiquitous as snack or candy bars — although nutrition bars are generally larger and claim to contain significantly more protein. Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests nutrition bars for quality prior to sale. ConsumerLab.com purchased 30 products and tested them for the accuracy of their label claims of calories, fats, carbohydrates, sugars, proteins, cholesterol, and sodium.
An alarming 60% of the products did not meet their label claims upon testing, with only 12 products passing the review. Undeclared carbohydrate was the most common problem. In fact, 15 of the 30 products tested exceeded claimed levels of carbohydrates — often by as much as 20 grams, despite claims by some to be "Low Carb." One possible explanation for this discrepancy may be the practice of some manufacturers not to count the ingredient "glycerin" as a carbohydrate on nutrition labels. Glycerin is commonly used in bars to add moisture and sweetness and the FDA requires that it be counted as a carbohydrate on labels. However, this rule is not always followed and the FDA has, in response, sent warning letters to some manufacturers to correct their labels or face legal action. In addition, the FDA has warned manufacturers that the term "Low Carb" is not an authorized nutrient content claim and should not appear on labels.
Sugars (which are a type of carbohydrate) were found to be higher than claimed in eight products. These products contained, on average, an extra 8 grams of sugar — equivalent to about two teaspoonfuls.
The testing also found that seven products contained more sodium than stated on the labels — some with more than twice the claimed amount. Two products exceeded the claimed amount of fat, respectively, by three grams and one and one-half grams. Four products had higher than claimed amounts of "saturated" fat (associated with an increased risk for heart disease). One bar, for example, claimed one gram of saturated fat but had nearly three times that amount. All of the products were within range of their protein and cholesterol claims.
"Other than for the twelve products that met their claims, consumers must take nutrition bar label information with more than just a grain of salt," cautioned Tod Cooperman, M.D., President of ConsumerLab.com. He advised: "If a bar claims less than 15 grams of carbohydrates, be skeptical; if it claims only 2 grams, don't believe it. If you're diabetic, know that the amount of carbohydrates coming from sugar may be much higher than the label indicates. If you're concerned about salt, assume that you may be getting two to three times what it says on the label. If you eat a lot of nutrition bars, try to minimize the saturated fat intake in the rest of your diet, as you may be getting more than you expect from the bars. And know that some bars contain additional ingredients, such as caffeine or even ephedra, so be cautious — particularly before offering them to kids."
The complete list of nutrition bar products that passed the review, a comparison chart of their ingredients, as well as ConsumerTips™ on buying and using nutrition bars are now available to ConsumerLab.com's online subscribers at www.consumerlab.com. General findings and examples of approved products are also available free from the Web site. Similar information is available online from ConsumerLab.com's Product Reviews for Asian and American ginseng, calcium, chondroitin, CoQ10, creatine, echinacea, ginkgo biloba, glucosamine, iron, MSM, multivitamins/multiminerals, phytoestrogens (soy and red clover isoflavones), SAM-e, saw palmetto, St. John's wort, valerian and vitamins C and E. Other Product Reviews scheduled for release in coming months include omega-3-fatty acids and B vitamins. ConsumerLab.com's Guide to Buying the Best Vitamin, Mineral, Herbal and Other Supplements is scheduled for publication next year. To further assist consumers, ConsumerLab.com licenses its flask-shaped CL Seal of Approved Quality (see The CL Seal) to manufacturers for use on products that have passed its evaluations.
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. Subscription to Consumerlab.com's Product Reviews is available online. Parties interested in purchasing comprehensive Product Review Technical Reports, licensing content, or requesting testing of additional products may contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ConsumerLab.com, LLC, 2001. All rights reserved.
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