Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quest Bars - A Better Protein Bar?

Since I tend to post most of my nutrition stuff here, I thought I'd share a new find. While browsing in my locally owned and operated nutrition store, I stumbled upon a new protein bar - the Quest Bar. They're not very big, but the box promised 20 grams of high quality protein, and I'm thinking, "Yeah, that's what all the protein bars say."

I know that protein bars are not Paleo - so what?! There are many days where I eat a protein bar or I go 6 or more hours without food. (No food makes Bill a grumpy man.) So I am always seeking a healthier bar with less crap in it - a bar that is more like real food.

The promise of a high fiber (16-18 grams), high protein (20 grams) bar that is not make with soy protein or fake proteins (like hydrolyzed collagen) and not packed with sugar or sugar alcohols is the Holy Grail of bars. This one has it - the bars could be better, but these are not bad.

To clarify, the original product line (6 flavors), which is what my store carries, does not contain the sugar alcohols, but their 2nd generation line (5 flavors) does contain small amounts of erythritol, one of the least distressing to the gastric system, and at only around 4-6 grams per bar, rather than the 20+ grams of sugar alcohols one might find in leading low-carb bars). The bars in this line also use Stevia for an additional sweetener instead of Sucralose.

However, according to the Body Ecology site, this is probably the best of the sugar alcohols. Here is their list of traits that make "erythritol a standout as a sugar alcohol" -
Erythritol is4:
  • Fermented – it is made by fermenting the natural sugar found in corn.
  • Heat stable up to 160 degrees C.
  • Non-caloric – While most sugar alcohols are low calorie, erythritol has zero calories.
  • Non-glycemic - Does not raise blood sugar – erythritol is considered suitable for people with diabetes because it does not raise plasma glucose or insulin levels.
  • The easiest sugar alcohol to digest – more than 90% of erythritol is absorbed in the small intestine, so minimal amounts reach the colon where other sugar alcohols end up causing diarrhea and other symptoms. Studies have shown that erythritol is even easier to digest than xylitol.
  • Noncarcinogenic– studies have shown that erythritol, like xylitol, does not have carcinogenic properties.
  • An antioxidant – erythritol helps to fight free radicals, responsible for the aging process. It is considered to be even more efficient than other sugar alcohols because it is so readily absorbed and yet not metabolized (it is excreted unchanged).
Erythritol has the status of generally recognized as safe (GRAS) from the FDA and is widely used in many other countries like Japan, the European Union, Mexico and Canada.

So I picked one up - Vanilla Almond Crunch - and this is the list of ingredients:

Everything on there looked pretty good to me (some people have issues with Sucralose, but I am not one of them), except the lo han guo, which I have never heard of - according to their website, it's an herbal sweetener:
A natural herb that’s been used as a sweetener in China for over 1,000 years. It only takes a TINY amount as it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar.
Just to be clear, I looked it on to see what they thought, and while there have been no reported human trials , there does seem to be some promising research with this substance (if even some of this is true in humans, it could be a useful sweetener):
Fruits of luo han guo are intensely sweet, with the purified constituents estimated to be about 150 times sweeter than sucrose. There is potential for use as a noncaloric sweetener. 5 , 6 The purified, sweet principle, mogroside V, is approved as a high-intensity sweetening agent in Japan. 8

Highly sweet cucurbitane glycosides from the fruits of luo han guo, and other plant extracts, were evaluated for sweetness using electrophysiological and behavioral testing in gerbils. Gerbils trained to avoid sucrose identified the extracts as being sweet through avoidance. 8 Another study in gerbils showed that mogroside V stimulated the gustatory receptors and induced behavioral responses to the compound's sweet taste. 9

In addition to its natural sweetening characteristic, luo han guo has exhibited antihyperglycemic effects. In rats, crude extracts of S. grosvenori and the triterpene glycosides inhibited a rise in postprandial blood glucose levels when given orally 3 minutes prior to oral administration of maltose. The suggested antihyperglycemic effect was via the inhibition of maltase. 10

S. grosvenori extract and the cucurbitane glycosides mogroside IV, mogroside V, 11-oxo-mogroside V, and siamenoside I inhibited copper-mediated, low-density, lipoprotein and cell-mediated, low-density lipoprotein oxidation in a dose-dependent fashion, with 11-oxo-mogroside V as the most active component. 11

The antioxidant, free-radical scavenging activities of the extract and 11-oxo-mogroside V were less than those of vitamin E in the same in vivo study. 11

In vitro and animal studies suggest potential cancer chemopreventive activities of cucurbitane glycosides and related compounds from the fruit of luo han guo. 12 , 13 , 14

An ethanol extract of S. grosvenori was evaluated for its effect on Epstein-Barr virus-early antigen (EBV-EA) activation as a method of detecting chemoprotective activity. The extract inhibited activation of EBV-EA at a level similar to or greater than the activity of beta-carotene. 12 In a similar study, 11-oxo-mogroside V and mogroside V showed strong inhibitory effects. 13

A 2-stage skin carcinogenesis model in mice ingesting mogroside V or 11-oxomogroside V showed delayed development and reduced numbers of papillomas at 10 and 15 weeks, respectively, compared with control group animals. 13

Inhibitory effects of mogroside V and 11-oxo-mogroside V on another skin carcinogenesis model in mice using peroxynitrite also showed a reduction in numbers of papillomas formed and delayed papilloma development. 14

The effect of luo han guo extract and its glycosides on allergic symptoms in mice were studied. No effect on skin scratching behavior or nasal rubbing was noted following single doses of 300 and 1,000 mg/kg, respectively, of the extract or the glycosides.

Repeated daily doses of 300 and 1,000 mg/kg/day between 2 and 4 weeks of the extract and the glycosides showed gradual inhibition of nasal rubbing and skin scratching. 3
The taste of the vanilla almond crunch bar is not bad - I also bought apple pie and some peanut butter thing. I drank about 12 oz. of water with the bar, and 20 minutes on I feel relatively full (or at least not hungry), which is more than I can say for some other and larger bars.

They run about $2.30 each at my store and their site sells them for $24.99 a box of 12.

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