There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the Quest Nutrition lawsuit that’s currently playing out in courts across the United States. The simple reason: it’s just a sweetener. And while artificial flavoring is acceptable in food, sweeteners such as Splenda are not.

Quest Nutrition Lawsuit

Isomaltooligosaccharaide (IMO), a flavorless, artificial sweetener most commonly used in protein drinks, is a lowcalorie substitute often used in diet bars. However, because of its chemical structure, it is labeled as a “fiber,” and don’t think it’s a fiber in the classic dietary fiber sense: think of fiber as the type found in broccoli. While there is some debate over whether or not it provides any more dietary fiber than ordinary sugar (the only sugar that’s considered “fibrous”), a large amount of the product is derived from the corn (or corn products) used to create the bars. In short: while it may technically be an ingredient, the real function is simply as a marketing strategy.

One of the many issues cited in regards to Quest Nutrition bars is that they are promoted as dietary prebiotics.

That’s right the claim is that these bars provide significant amounts of “good” bacteria that can actually help reduce the risk of colon cancer. In response to the lawsuit, the company provided evidence that their bars do indeed contain a certain amount of prebiotics, though the amounts are incredibly insignificant. Further, there is no documentation to suggest that consuming the bars in any way will reduce your risk of colon cancer. So, basically, there is no good or bad bacteria in these protein bars.

Another issue raised in regards to Quest Nutrition bars is that they feature high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.

The reason this is problematic is that, as it turns out, there are actually significant health risks associated with high fructose corn syrup. Specifically, a person who consumes large amounts of the substance can experience serious weight gain. Further, there is evidence that shows that consuming large amounts of this artificial sweetener can cause serious dental problems and damage to the structure of the stomach. Given this evidence, the lawsuit sought to have the ingredients of the bars declared as being false and misleading.

While the above discussion highlights the more negative aspects of Quest Nutrition bars such as their high calorie content, the false claims regarding their dietary fiber and the high fructose corn syrup included there is actually an opportunity for the lawsuit to benefit both parties.

Because of the recent increases in the awareness of both the need to watch our diets and the link between unhealthy diet choices and the development of various health conditions, more people are paying attention to the claims made by certain manufacturers. (The claims in regard to soluble corn fiber and dietary fiber are particularly noteworthy because they are often referred to as “quick weight loss” products.) For example, a recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal highlighted a number of popular weight loss and antiobesity products that include these ingredients. Furthermore, a number of prominent health websites have begun to make the dietary fiber claims that they previously ignored. As a result, many people who previously refused to consider the health issues related to enriched grain cereals are now strongly considering purchasing such products.

In light of this new information, the lawsuit may offer an opportunity for consumers to reevaluate their consumption of enriched grain cereals.

It is likely that the new lawsuit will prompt manufacturers to reformulate their products to eliminate artificial sweeteners, as well as to include foods with higher fiber content in order to reduce their overall calories per serving. Such products would likely require the addition of less than half a calorie to the total number of calories per serving, thereby substantially reducing the calories that are consumed with those products. If successful, this type of lawsuit could have a broader impact on the foods industry, which would no doubt be of benefit to consumers. Furthermore, as the lawsuit provides the catalyst for additional research into the effects of artificial sweeteners and highfibre products on public health, the lawsuit itself may also lead to new insights about the overall health impact of the U.S. diet.

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