Here's an old post I dug up from my previous blog, that I think a couple of you folks would find interesting. It also gets me off the hook for writing a post for a whole day. Score!
I should be getting my notebook up to snuff, so I can hand it over for a data review tomorrow. Instead, I'm answering that age old (okay, 3 years old) question that's plagued many a backacker: What the hell is up with Luna bars?
They market them as the energy bar for women, but as far as anyone can tell with a casual inspection, there's squat all different between them and normal energy bars. An inspection of their literature reveals that Luna bars are "Specifically formulated to provide women with the nutrients that are often harder for them to get." Further review reveals that they include, in this list, folic acid, soy protein, calcium, and 'vitamins and minerals' (How nebulous does that get?). While I'm not a nutritionist - I never had the required lobotomy performed - I feel it's safe to categorically say that Soy Protein is not a required nutrient by any stretch. And I should strongly question as to whether soy protein is more bio-available specifically for women, thought an attempt at a search on this subject through the usual databases showed no scientific articles suggesting or disproving this (I would argue that this, however, is not lack of evidence, but evidence of lack).
What of folic acid? While the amount of folic acid in Luna bars is higher than several flavours of traditional Clif Bars (used for comparison, as they have a related manufacturer), the crux of the problem becomes the fact folic acid requirements for adults over 19 are, according Suitor and Bailey (Dietary folate equivalents: interpretation and application. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Jan;100(1): pp.88-94), identical, unless one is currently pregnant or nursing, at which there's an increased need. Therefore, while there is less folic acid in select flavours of Clif Bars, both genders are at a loss.
The difference in Calcium between most energy bars and Luna bars is similarly barely worth noting. In fact, while Clif Bars seemed to contain slightly less, on average, several groups of Power Bars contained significantly (assuming 33% variance for either, p=.05) greater dosages of calcium (Not to mention I rather like the PowerBar Harvest Toffee Chocolate Chip flavour :d).
Compared to Clif Bars, the largest difference between them and Luna are 1) caloric density (2.7 cal/gram wt. vs. 3.9 cal/gram) and 2) more vitamins overall. This difference, however, disappears when one compares Luna to other brands. It is my firm opinion, barring the inclusion of additional information currently not in my possession, that there is no additional benefit for women by eating Luna bars over other energy bars on the market.
And to the men: Yes, they're safe to eat (And a couple of the blends are nice!). If anyone questions why you're eating a 'women's' energy bar, point out it's pretty much the exact same thing as a Boulder Bar, except with more pastels on the wrapper.