Are quest bars good for treating eating disorders? (5 side effects of quest bars)

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In this blog post, we shall answer the question “are quest bars good for treating eating disorders?” and look at what quest bars are, their nutritional value and what health specialist say about them. We shall also look at the debate regarding quest bars on the treatment of eating disorders and what their side effects are.

Are quest bars good for treating eating disorders?

No, quest bars are not good for treating eating disorders. Many doctors have advised their patients who are recovering from eating disorders against eating quest bars as substitutes for meals. In general quest bars are snacks and not toxic to the body but people who are recovering might substitute them for meals which is not healthy.

What are quest bars?

Quest bars are protein-packed bars that serve as the to-go-to snacks when one is very busy or needs a quick fix when feeling hungry. They have amassed popularity recently with people sharing their favourite flavours and clever ways of transforming the bars into cookies or cereals.

Quest bars have an impressive amount of protein and fibre and only 1 gram of sugar in one low-calorie bar. Although the protein bars are advertised as containing natural proteins, fibre and low sugars, the ingredient label shows otherwise. We will now have a closer look at the ingredients used to make quest bars and why they might not be as healthy.

Ingredients in quest bars

Protein blend (whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate)

Whey protein is used by bodybuilders for muscle growth. Whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate are byproducts of factory cheese and cannot be broken down efficiently by the body in high concentrations. Because of this feature, they cause digestion complications like bloating, gas and constipation.

Sucralose

It is also known as Splenda and it is an artificial sweetener, and many speculations exist surrounding the health consequences of the sweetener. Some studies have shown that sucralose can increase the risk of digestive diseases and cancer.

Artificial sweeteners‌ are processed products and are not recommended in a healthy diet.

Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO)

The quest bar indicates that these are extracted from plants. However, this ingredient is added after a lengthy process that turns it into syrup. However. IMO is not considered a natural fibre and it is harder to digest.

Before we discuss why people with eating disorders prefer eating quest bars let us look at what eating disorders are and their types

What you should know about quest protein bars

Most people equate protein bars to good health and this is not entirely true. Many people opt for a grab-and-go snack due to their busy schedule and they actually taste good. It is important, however, to scrutinize what protein bar you are having and what ingredients it has.

Not all protein bars contain nutritious benefits to the body. Some side effects protein bars may have include:

Protein bars may make you feel hungrier

As we discussed earlier in the ingredients in quest bars, we realized that it contains artificial sweeteners that pose a higher risk of causing obesity that regular sugars. The artificial sweeteners also increase appetite. In short, they make you feel hungrier.

Research has shown that sucralose, the artificial sweetener in quest bars, increases appetite in women and obese people. While some studies show that artificial sugars help in weight loss, others show that they cause weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. This could be bad news to those recovering from eating disorders and would want to lose weight.

The research still has many unanswered questions on the same issue and as scientists work in answering these questions, we should strive to educate ourselves more about artificial sweeteners.

They help you preserve your muscles

People who have disordered eating, especially anorexia, are prone to developing sarcopenia (losing muscle strength and mass). This is caused by decreased food intake and exercise. Research suggests that protein bars can help in the prevention of sarcopenia.

Maintenance of muscle is vital in improving metabolism, maintaining weight, increase productivity, prevent falls, provide better blood sugar control, and better health in general.

They make you add weight

Many protein bars, like quest bars, have a high concentration of calories. When you eat more calories than you burn them, you gain weight. One single quest bar can contain calories as high as 250 calories.

This is more than the calories one could eat in a single meal so for those using them as alternatives for meals/want to cut weight, quest bars are not recommended.

You are at a risk of developing metabolic disorders

As discussed earlier, quest bars are filled with artificial sugars and other ingredients that put you at a high risk of developing metabolic disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foods high in added sugars can cause diabetes type 2, obesity and heart diseases. Although the quest bar packaging states that it is a protein bar, the ingredients say otherwise.

The nutritional facts indicate that it contains sucralose (artificial sweetener), IMO which is hard to digest, and protein blend, which causes digestion problems like bloating, constipation and gas.

Why do people recovering from eating disorders eat quest bars?

It is important to note that the purpose of this article is not to demonize the use of quest bars but to get an overall picture of what they are, what they contain and how much is too much. This will help you make an informed decision about whether to eat it. 

Protein bars depict themselves as alternatives to foods which is bad for people recovering from eating disorders. Whole grains and natural foods replenish our energy and are filled with nutritive values, while quest bars can put them in a bad space with food and make them feel like a protein bar is all they need. 

As earlier discussed, quest bars are made with whey protein that is used by bodybuilders for building muscles. This means that it adds weight. This might give people recovering from anorexia unhealthy hope that they can gain weight, hence becoming more healthy. Many others may substitute all meals with quest bars and we have discussed the negative effects it has on our digestion.

Serena Tsang, who is recovering from anorexia and binge eating, expressed his dissatisfaction with his dietician advising him against eating quest bars and feels that is restrictive and could make him retain unhealthy habits. My readers, however, pointed out that maybe the dietician was helping him avoid regarding quest bars as meals and that it is not healthy to survive on them.

Janet Parker, a registered dietician, pointed out the possibility of his doctor wanting him to stick to actual foods and that avoiding quest bars is to help him form a better eating lifestyle. She also points out that any food the dietician says he can’t have is a recommendation and he has a choice in the matter.

She advises him not to see it as restrictive but ‌as just advice. She further advises him to talk to his doctor about what to do when he feels he should do something he shouldn’t do and recommends a walk-around by cutting down his quest bar intake gradually.

5 side effects of quest bars

The side effects of quest bars include:

Short-term effects

  • Bloating 
  • Constipation
  • Loose stool
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Gut bacterial imbalance
  • It may make you hungrier
  • You could gain weight

Long-term effects

  • Cancer (there is not sufficient evidence to prove this)
  • It could increase metabolic disorders

Are there healthier alternatives to quest bars?

Yes, there are healthier alternatives to quest bars, or any other protein bars for that matter. The benefit of replacing protein bars with non-processed food is that they have natural sugars, are fresh and they are satisfying. For you to enjoy whole foods as to-go-to snacks, you have to keep the following in mind:

  • They don not require sitting down, a fork or knife.pick foods that you can munch as you go
  • They are made of whole foods that are healthy
  • They have enough calories that will make you full
  • Choose foods that you actually like and are going to eat
  • Choose portable foods that you can carry in your bag

With this in mind, let us now look at the healthier alternatives in the place of quest bars

  • Hard-boiled eggs

They are low in calories, have enough proteins and fill you up. They also do not spoil fast, are easy to carry and one is enough! 

  • bananas

Bananas are loaded with potassium and are also starch-resistant. This means that your body burns calories produced by bananas slowly, hence makes you feel full for a long time. One medium size banana has 90 calories.

  • apples/oranges

These are simple whole fruits that are not only easy to carry, but also contain fibres and healthy calories. Apples have 90 calories per fruit while an orange has 50 calories. Thise makes either of the two fruits a good substitution for quest bars.

  • Whole wheat peanut butter sandwich

A whole wheat bread provides healthy proteins and fibres and the peanut will provide good fat and proteins. You can take a half of the sandwich and be sure that it will provide sufficient nutrients. A tablespoon of peanut butter will give you 4g of protein and 100calories, while one slice of whole wheat bread will provide you with 100 calories and 4g of protein.

  • nuts

These are easy to carry and are pocket friendly. Peanuts and almonds have similar fiber and protein contents, so you can alternate between the two. Almonds have 6g proteins, 150 calories, 3.5g fiber while an ounce of peanuts have 7g proteins and 150 calories.

Conclusion

We have looked at what quest bars are and their ingredients. We have then looked at why people recovering from eating disorders eat quest bars and the short-term and long-term side effects of quest bars. Finally, we have looked at the healthier alternatives of eating quest bars.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

Frequently asked questions: Are quest bars good for treating eating disorders?

Do quest bars make you bloated?

The high-intensity sweeteners (they are sweeter than regular sugar) may cause digestive problems for some people.

How unhealthy are quest bars?

They have a high saturation of fat, which is a health concern. It can cause heart diseases and other chronic diseases.

What are three examples of disordered eating?

  • Feeling guilty or shame that is related to eating
  • Chronic weight gains or loss
  • Extreme workouts
  • Frequently dieting

Citations 

Kyla nutrition and wellness, (August 20, 2020). Eating for weight gain. Retrieved from https://www.keepyourlifealive.com/eds-and-recovery/tag/protein+bar

Csatari J. (August 12, 2021). Secret Side Effects of Eating Protein Bars, According to Science. Retrieved from https://www.eatthis.com/secret-side-effects-of-eating-protein-bars/

Psychreel, (March 24, 2022). Quest Bar: Is It a Solution for Eating Disorders? Retrieved from https://psychreel.com/quest-bar-is-it-a-solution-for-eating-disorders/

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