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Natural Products Expo West 2012 Part One

March 16, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

This past weekend, over 60,000 members of the natural product community converged at the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County, California. Among them were manufacturers, product spokespeople and retailers. In all, over 2,000 companies exhibited products and services on a show floor that spanned an impressive one million square feet. This all bodes well for an industry that reported 8% growth in 2010, which equates to a total of $127 billion in sales in the U.S. alone. As in years gone by, I took part in the proceedings as an information gathering observer.

The lower floor of the convention center is an expansive space primarily devoted to “functional foods”. These are products that range from fortified bake mixes to meal replacement bars and shakes. Here, a manufacturer by the name of Quest Nutrition introduced a new line of protein bars that I believe deserves special attention. The product in question carries the name QuestBar Natural Protein Bar. Before proceeding, please note the word “Natural” on the label. Quest Nutrition makes two lines of protein bars – one is all natural and the other contains a small amount of sucralose, the artificial sweetener. I only recommend the all-natural line of bars.

There are several factors that set QuestBars apart from most other products in their category. For starters, they omit many of the questionable ingredients that are omnipresent in other high protein bars including gelatin, gluten, glycerine and soy protein. The makers also chose whey protein isolate as a primary protein source and isomalto-oligosaccharides or IMO as a means of boosting the fiber content. Ironically, this makes QuestBars particularly well suited for a demographic that the manufacturers aren’t necessarily targeting: seniors.

The age-related loss of lean body mass or sarcopenia contributes significantly to disability and morbidity in the senior population. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing that whey protein, especially when coupled with resistance exercise, supports growth and retention of muscle mass in older men and women. Whey protein has also been found to promote intestinal integrity in aging populations. According to a recent review in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice, an increase in intestinal permeability (leaky gut) has been linked to systemic inflammation and “numerous physical and mental abnormalities and associated functional decline”. Regular whey protein intake may, therefore, address both of these pressing health threats and related comorbidities.

Perhaps the least known and understood ingredient in QuestBars is isomalto-oligosaccharides. Even though the name doesn’t sound very natural, it is 100% naturally sourced from a variety of traditional foods including cassava and tapioca. What’s more, IMO has been clinically documented as improving: a) the concentration of beneficial bacteria (bifidobacteria, lactobacilli) in the gut; b) constipation in older men and women; c) lipid profiles by lowering LDL (“bad”), total cholesterol and triglycerides and elevating HDL (“good”) cholesterol. And, as importantly, none of the published trials I’ve come across indicate any recognizable safety concerns.

The actual carbohydrate count of QuestBars seems quite high – upwards of 20 grams. However, the majority of the carbs come from IMO, the aforementioned prebiotic, dietary fiber. Erythritol, the health promoting, natural sugar alcohol and ground almonds comprise the bulk of the remaining carbs. In terms of sweetness, monk fruit and stevia extracts are largely responsible for the sweet taste of the bars. To my mind, this is an acceptable carbohydrate/sweetener profile. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to determine exactly what kind of effect this or any other “low carb” product has on your personal physiology. Preliminary testing on myself reveals that eating a QuestBar on an empty stomach tends to increase my blood sugar by a modest 10 mg/dL one hour post consumption. When I tested my blood sugar two hours after eating the bar, it had returned to its normal fasting level. All told, I tested a total of four different QuestBars for my mini-experiment: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Roll, Coconut Cashew and Lemon Cream Pie. These preliminary findings reassure me that I can safely add QuestBars to my long list of suitable snack options.

Note to Manufacturer: Several readers have commented that these bars are too sweet for their taste. This is a common complaint with bars and snacks that are sweetened, in part, with stevia extracts. Perhaps you can keep this in mind if the bar is reformulated in the future.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Amino Acid Absorption and Subsequent Muscle Protein Accretion (link)

Study 2 – Resistance Exercise Enhances Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis with (link)

Study 3 – Greater Stimulation of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis with Ingestion … (link)

Study 4 – Dietary Protein to Support Muscle Hypertrophy(link)

Study 5 – Intestinal Permeability, Moderate Exercise, and Older Adult Health (link)

Study 6 – Glutamine and Whey Protein Improve Intestinal Permeability (link)

Study 7 – Will Isomalto-Oligosaccharides, a Well-Established Functional Food (link)

Study 8 – Long-term Supplementation of Isomalto-Oligosaccharides Improved (link)

Study 9 – Effects of Isomalto-Oligosaccharides on Bowel Functions (link)

Study 10 – Use of Isomalto-Oligosaccharide in the Treatment of Lipid Profiles (link)

IMO Supplementation May Support Immune Function

Source: J. Nutr. December 1, 2005 vol. 135 no. 12 2857-2861 (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutritional Supplements, Product Reviews

6 Comments & Updates to “Natural Products Expo West 2012 Part One”

  1. JD Says:

    Great info! Only thing missing is a discount code 😉

    Looking forward to, I hope, more of your discoveries from the Expo.

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, JD!

    Unfortunately, I haven’t got any discount codes. But, I’ll let you know if I hear of any – by posting them here. Please do the same.

    More Expo West discoveries coming next week!

    Be well!


  3. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP

    Great mini research and analysis on Quest Bars nutritional value!

    It would be great if Quest Bars gets exposed to your article and assist seniors with coupons to help their budget!

    A win-win situation!

    Thank you!


  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul!

    That’s a wonderful idea. I’d be fully supportive of it!

    Be well!


  5. Lakshmi Voelker Says:

    your are amazing J.Paul. So glad that your expertise is in my and Bruce’s life.

  6. JP Says:

    That’s so kind of you to say, Lakshmi.

    You and Bruce are blessings in my life as well!



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