A CHORI-Bar a day to keep heart disease and cognitive decline at bay?

I must confess to being somewhat of a sceptic when it comes to companies who promote "their" vitamin or mineral supplement as being the way to true health and happiness. But the report into the development of the "CHORI-Bar" caught my attention and it may be something, whose real worth will be evaluated more clearly in the not too distant future.And no, they are not available yet at your local supermarket or health food store.

So what is a CHORI- Bar?

The CHORI-Bar is a low kilojoule, fruit based, high fibre, vitamin and mineral nutrition bar that aims to improve those biological markers that will promote a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. The name comes from the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute's Nutrition and Metabolism Centre led by Dr Ames.

Dr Ames has spent a number of years studying the interactions of vitamins and minerals on metabolic processes in the body. It has been recognised that many Americans do not consume enough vitamins and minerals in their diet, and Dr Ames believes that this contributes to those diseases associated with obesity and ageing. He proposes that even modest vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be associated with the subsequent development of disease.

It has taken around 6 years to make the bar palatable. Let's face it; if it doesn't taste good, people aren't going to eat it, no matter how good it supposed to be for them. The other advantage is that it is satiating, so you feel full after eating it - which is helpful for those wishing to lose weight.

What does the CHORI-Bar do?

The aim is to correct micronutrient malnutrition (i.e. insufficient vitamins and minerals) associated with caloric over nutrition (too much "fast" food) The aim of the CHORI-Bar is to restore metabolic balance.

There have already been a number of pilot studies conducted on the CHORI-Bar. In a small trial recently, 25 individuals of variable age and BMI (body mass index) ate two bars a day for two weeks. They underwent assessment of biomarkers, lipids (fats), glucose metabolism and inflammatory markers at the beginning and end of the two -week period. Even in such a short time frame, metabolic changes such as an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) lowering of homocysteine and increasing glutathione levels were demonstrated.

Raised homocysteine levels have been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Glutathione levels tend to decrease with age. It is important in regulating the effects of oxidative stress in the body.

What's next?

Good nutrition does not come from eating a bar alone. However, the researchers do consider that the CHORI-Bar could be a useful adjunct in improving health through improved metabolic processes, whilst encouraging someone to change to an overall healthier eating plan.

Clinical trials are now underway to further examine how the various food components in the bar interact synergistically to produce this positive effect on biomarkers and to look for ways to measure other biomarkers associated with insulin resistance, inflammation and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Currently it has not been determined whether the bar would be used as a supplement or meal replacement. What is encouraging from the findings is that the CHORI-Bar appears to be able to produce a positive metabolic effect without having to use large doses of the various constituents.

Perhaps in the future, those people with obesity, asthma and hypertension will be helped by the added prescription of a nutritional bar as part of their management to assist them in improving their overall metabolic health.

Ref: Mietus-Snyder, M. L., Shigenaga, M. K., Suh, J. H., Shenvi, S. V., Lal, A., McHugh, T., Olson, D., Lilienstein, J., Krauss, R. M., Gildengoren, G., McCann, J. C., and Ames, B. N. A nutrient-dense high fiber, fruit-based supplement bar increases HDL, particularly large HDL, lowers homocysteine, and raises glutathione in in a 2-week trial. FASEB Journal, May 1, 2012 DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-201558 fj.11-201558