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Quest Nutrition started using soluble corn fibre instead of isomalto-oligosaccharides (let’s call it IMO from now on). This may have been due to:
- a lawsuit, for not meeting label claims, misstating carb and fiber content;
- quest bars/IMO raises blood sugar levels on people that have tested it;
- Using IMO makes Quest Bars rock solid (microwave it for 10 seconds).
The claim is that Quest’s fiber content is overstated from 50% to 10 fold the actual amount; and that calories are understated by at least 20%.
I recommend you read this article as it explains the lawsuit very well, then come back here to read the rest.
The lawsuit was dropped in late 20131.
In late 2014 Quest switched from IMO to soluble corn fibre, along with a change in other ingredients. S’Mores was the first Quest Bar using soluble corn fibre.
In a blog post, Quest Nutrition states that the reason for an ingredient change was because they “are obsessed with being on the cutting edge of traditional science” and that some ingredients weren’t allowed in all places, “for instance Lo Han Guo, a plant-based sweetener, isn’t allowed in Europe”. At nowhere in the article they mention soluble corn fibre specifically, though.
The switch to soluble corn fibre
They may have switched to soluble corn fibre (SCF) due to:
- the IMO controversy
- SCF has the benefit of extending shelf life
- IMO syrup in the EU showed that it raises blood sugar levels almost as fast as glucose. As a result the use of IMO in the EU in food products, must by law, carry a “not suitable for diabetics” warning.3
Soluble corn fibre can also be called “corn syrup” or “corn syrup solids”, according to the manufacturer4. That means this is syrup, but under a different guise. Also note that this is genetically modified (GMO).
That’s why the folks at Reflex Nutrition in their R-Bars decided not to use IMO nor soluble corn fibre (used by Quest now), and use Soluble Gluco Fibre instead. Soluble gluco fibre is manufactured by the same company, but it’s a different product, which supposedly is non-GMO and doesn’t the potential drawbacks of soluble corn fiber. This ingredient gives the Reflex R-Bar a unique, soft texture and boosts fibre content whilst maintaining a low sugar value.
The calorie debate
But whether you use IMO, soluble corn fibre or any other type of prebiotic fibre, there is the sometimes misundertstood issue of dietary fibre, which is something that can affect not just quest bars but all protein bars that don’t specify their net/active carbs from dietary fibre.
Because this affects calorie count. Take a look at this.
The only true low carb bar on the market.
The total calorie count adds up more than listed.
Calories = (20g Protein * 4) + (21g Carbohydrates * 4) + (9g Fat * 9)
20*4 + 21*4 + 9*9 = 245 calories
The calories on the label are 190. This difference is explained by the dietary fiber. Carbs that count towards calories are lower than total carbs listed due to insoluble fibre not being digested by the body, and so it amounts to zero calories. Soluble fibre does have calories, but not 4 calories per gram.
In the macro list of the Quest bar, instead of counting 21g of carbs, they are counting 7.25. To reach this number, they are roughly subtracting “Dietary Fiber” 15g from “Total Carbohydrate 21g” in the label. 21g – 15g = 6g, but it’s close enough. The missing 1.25 might be some rounding/down we’re not aware.
20*4 + 7.25*4 + 9*9 = 190 calories
Quest calculates the total carbs minus the carbs from fibre, the “active carbs“, which can also be referred to as “net carbs“. If the fibre content goes down, the active/net carbs go up, which is something low carb dieters need to take into account.
In midst of this controversy, ConsumerLab, an independent testing agency, tested the nutritionals of Quest’s Banana Nut Muffin bar (without being prompted) and concluded that both fibre and calories matched the label content2.
The lab did not test for IMO specifically, as according to Quest’s official communication about this controversy, “IMOs require a unique testing protocol specifically designed to accurately detect IMO.”
Other bars using IMO
After the success of Quest Bars, other companies began using IMO as an ingredient.
Bars like Muscle Pharm’s candy-like Combat Crunch, the tasty Oh Yeah Victory Bars (and the new Oh Yeah Low Carb Bars), the Paleo Protein bars, EnergyFirst’s healthy Permalean bar and possibly a few others.
Then there are the sugar alchools. These are a class of reduced-calorie sweeteners that substitute sugar and have minimal impact on blood sugar. Some people tolerate it well, but in others it may result in major laxative effects and goastrointestinal discomfort (gas, bloating). You check for sugar alcohols in ingredients that end in “-ol” (sorbitol, maltitol, xylitol, or erythritol).
Last quest bar using IMO
The last quest bar using IMO was Cookies & Cream. The S’Mores (their next flavour) started using soluble corn fibre. And from there on out, others followed, like the Mint Chocolate Chunk, released April 2015.
QUEST BAR ALTERNATIVES
Reflex R-Bar (soluble gluco fibre, not corn)
The R-Bar – if you’re in the UK (Predator Nutrition)
The R-Bar – if you’re in the UK (Amazon)
The R-Bar – if you’re in the UK (Affordable Supplements)
The R-Bar – if you’re in the UK (Discount Supplements)
ISS Oh Yeah Victory bars (IMO)
Oh Yeah Victory Bars – if you’re in the UK (Predator Nutrition)
Oh Yeah Victory Bars – if you’re in the UK (Amazon)
Oh Yeah Victory Bars – if you’re in the US/world (Bodybuilding.com)
ISS Oh Yeah Low carb bars (IMO and maltitol)
Oh Yeah Low Carb Bars – if you’re in the UK (Amazon UK)
Paleo Protein bars (IMO)
Paleo Protein bars if you’re in the US
EnergyFirst Permalean bars (IMO)
Permalean gourmet bar – only ship to a select countries
PROTEIN BAR REVIEWS
Related articles on the web
The Quest Bar lawsuit–and why science shows it’s bogus
Makers Of Quest Bars Sued Over Mislabeling; Allegedly Overstated Fiber By More Than 750%
Quest Bar Mislabeling Lawsuit
Isomalto-Oligosaccharides and Protein Diet Bars
- Quest blog — fiber count lawsuit dropped (blog post) go back ⇡
- ConsumerLab — 20 tests of Nutrition Bars (including Quest bars) go back ⇡
- Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) Isomalto-oligosaccharide. EC No. 103 go back ⇡
- PROMITOR® — Soluble Corn Fiber 70 go back ⇡
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