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NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH

Original Energy Bar Rounds Out Exercise

March 09, 1998|NICOLE LEWIS | THE WASHINGTON POST

Out exercising and need a quick energy boost? Try a bagel.

Bagels provide the same amount of carbohydrates as the newest athletic food fad, energy bars, according to a recent study by researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. And the researchers suggested that bagels are even easier to eat for athletes than the energy bars.

Bagels have long been a breakfast staple, but their popularity has soared in recent years. More than 607 million fresh and frozen bagels were sold last year in supermarkets alone, up from 577 million the year before, says A.C. Nielsen, a marketing analysis firm.

In a recent report by the Wheat Foods Council, bagels were rated the sixth-fastest-growing food of the decade.

Bagels start with simple ingredients--high-protein flour, water, sugar, yeast and salt (which add up to less than 1 gram of fat and, except for egg bagels, no cholesterol)--but bakers are constantly adding new things, such as cinnamon and raisins or sun-dried tomatoes, to enhance their appeal.

Bagels are boiled and then baked, a method that helps keep the amount of fat low. Of course, slathering a bagel with an ounce of cream cheese adds 10 grams of fat.

Fans argue that bagels are not only for breakfast but lunch and snacks also.

The Ball State researchers came to the same conclusion. In the study, nine endurance-trained male bicyclists were put on a rigorous schedule of rides, given the same meals and fed PowerBars, TigerBars or bagels as snacks after rides. Six hours later, the participants rode their bicycles at their own pace for one hour. In all three groups, researchers found no difference in work performed or respiratory exchanges.

David Pearson, associate professor of physical education at Ball State and author of the study, said bagels "were giving the same benefit as . . . the more expensive prepackaged energy bars."

Scott Sowry, corporate communications director for Berkeley-based PowerBar Inc., said, however, that PowerBars contain several nutrients, such as Vitamin C and iron, that bagels do not.

Connie Diekman, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn., attributes the enormous popularity of energy bars to successful marketing.

"There is no magic carbohydrate," she said. "If we could refer to the bagel as 'the energy round' or 'the power-something,' people would flock to it. It just happens to have a boring name."

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Resources

* Food Allergy Network: (800) 929-4040. Web site: http://www.

foodallergy.org.

* American Dietetic Assn. Nutrition hotline: (800) 366-1655 in English and Spanish. Web site: http://www.

eatright.org.

* American Heart Assn.: (800) AHA-USA1. Web site: http://www.

americanheart.org.

* American Diabetes Assn.: (213) 966-2890 serving California and Nevada. Web site: http://www.diabetes.org.

* Milk Processor Education Program: (800) WHY-MILK. Web site: http://www.

whymilk.com.

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