Many people tend to make the big mistake of falling for gimmicky nutritional claims. You know, the ones often found on the front of food products. How many times have you seen “low fat” or “heart-healthy” laced across the shelves of your grocery store? These terms are very loosely thrown around to say the least. Even the nutritional facts can be deceiving since not all calories, carbs, fat, etc. are created equal.
Our latest reminder of this problem is the popular line of Muscle Milk sports bars and beverages. Cytosport, the company that manufactures these products, is currently in the middle of a lawsuit for making claims such “Healthy, Sustained Energy”, “0g Trans Fat”, “Healthy Fats”, and “Good Carbohydrates”, when in fact the products contain copious amounts of refined and artificial sugars and processed fats.
As you can see in the above pictures of Muscle Milk Bars, the product tries to sound as healthy as possible with words such “natural”, “genuine”, “lean”, “healthy, sustained energy”, and “0g trans fat.” Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients found in a Muscle Milk Bar. First of all, if the food’s list of ingredients resembles a college thesis, you probably shouldn’t be consuming it. It usually indicates a highly refined and processed product.
Soy Protein Isolate, Evaporated Cane Juice, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Hydrolyzed Gelatin, Peanuts, Milk Protein Isolate, Corn Syrup, Glycerine, Polydextrose, Water, Nonfat Dry Milk, Invert Sugar, Soybeans, Sugar, Whey Protein Isolate, Peanut Flour, Milk Protein Concentrate, Cocoa Powder, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Fructose, Soy Lecithin, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Rice Starch, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Salt, Sucralose, Butter, Honey, Modified Potato Starch, Xanthan Gum, Peanut And/Or Canola And/Or Soybean Oil, Wheat, Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Hazelnuts, Walnuts.
Soy protein isolate, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, milk protein concentrate: These are the primary sources of protein.
Evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, polydextrose, invert sugar, sugar, fructose, sucralose: These are the primary sweeteners of the product, and they are the absolute opposite of “healthy, sustained energy.” Aside from cane juice, the rest are highly refined and all of them contribute to obesity.
Fractionated palm kernel oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, butter, peanut and/or canola and/or soybean oil: These are the sources of fats. Fractionated palm kernel oil is palm kernel oil that has been heat processed to remove most of the unsaturated fats. What’s left is palm kernel oil with a higher fraction of saturated fat to prevent the chocolate from melting and increase shelf life. Partially hydrogenated palm oil is also a killer. Hydrogenation is what creates trans fats.
Modified potato starch, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, rice starch, glycerine: These are tell-tale signs of refined foods. Their purpose is to stabilize, emulsify, or thicken foods. In a study, xanthan gum was shown to cause respiratory problems. 
The lesson to be learned here is that you should really look into what goes into your food. Do not simply trust what they say on the front of their labels and the various marketing ploys they attempt. Instead, look at the list of ingredients. You’d be surprised at how much your health will improve by simply switching to products that contain whole, recognizable, and unrefined ingredients.
1. Sargent, EV.; Adolph, J.; Clemmons, MK.; Kirk, GD.; Pena, BM.; Fedoruk, MJ. (Jul 1990). “Evaluation of flu-like symptoms in workers handling xanthan gum powder”. J Occup Med 32 (7): 625–30.DOI:10.1097/00043764-199007000-00014. PMID 2391577.