A consumer watchdog group that conducted an independent evaluation of different popular nutrition bars is urging the public to “know your bar” before indulging. According to ConsumerLab .com, three of the 34 products tested were mislabeled. One bar contained 50% (1 gram [g]) more saturated fat than stated, another had 27% (0.8 g) more saturated fat than claimed, and in a third case, the carb count was off by 33%! In 2001, most bars were mislabeled, so accuracy has improved. But label misrepresentations are not the only concern. The watchdog company is also drawing attention to the vast nutritional differences among bars and to questions about nutritional content.
“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,” according to Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com. “People need to ‘know their bar’ to be sure it has what they need, without unwanted ingredients.”
Here are some of the key findings:
- Many labels included a “net carbs” claim, which excluded carbs thought to have less impact on blood sugar levels. This practice has neither been sanctioned nor stopped by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The carbs not counted, typically glycerin and sugar alcohols, would still add calories.
- At least half of the fat (2–6 g) found in most bars was saturated fat, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
- Trans fat amounts were generally not listed.
- Many bars were fortified with vitamins, which could pose a risk if consumers exceeded the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of any particular vitamin through supplementation and/or diet.
- People who use the bars as meal replacements might not get sufficient calories or protein.