Sobar so good? Protein bar which aims to reduce alcohol absorption set for Asian markets

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

A recent clinical trial demonstrated SOBAR can reduce alcohol absorption up to 50% ©getsobars
A recent clinical trial demonstrated SOBAR can reduce alcohol absorption up to 50% ©getsobars

Related tags protein bar Asia alcohol absorption

California-based Zeno Functional Foods announced it has plans to enter several Asian markets in late 2020 with its protein bar, Sobar, which claims to reduce alcohol absorption.

Dr Joseph Fisher, president at Zeno Functional Foods, said the motivation behind developing the product was after drinking on an empty stomach at a wedding.

"After that experience, I thought that there was a huge need for a specialised, low-calorie snack that could efficiently and effectively reduce alcohol absorption​," he explained.

SOBAR is currently available in North America, through online and retail distributions. But Fisher told FoodNavigator-Asia​ there were plans to expand to other geographies including Asia, Australia, and the EU.

He plans to first enter South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, where allulose is already approved. Allulose is the sweetener used in SOBAR, which Fisher said helps to improve taste, mouthfeel and keep calories lower. 

For other geographies, we are considering formulated a non-allulose version​.”

However, Fisher said the first entry into these markets would not be before Q3 2020, as products need to be reformatted for specific markets such as alternate sizing or flavour additions. 

Sober findings

A recent clinical trial demonstrated SOBAR can reduce alcohol absorption up to 50%.

The study enrolled 21 healthy Canadian individuals with a history of moderate alcohol usage in a randomised, crossover trial.

Participants were tested four times consuming either no food (0 kcal), a reduced alcohol bioavailability bar (210 kcal), a savoury snack mix (210 kcal), or a multicomponent meal (635 kcal), five minutes before they were given a moderate dose of alcohol. Zeno Functional Foods provided the reduced alcohol bioavailability bars in this study.

Alcohol consumed consist of 80-proof vodka and noncaloric tonic water. The size of the cocktail was adjusted according to the sex and body weight of the subject, which was approximately two standard drinks for men.

The participants’ BAC were measured over 90 minutes with a breathalyser. The primary endpoint was the peak BAC (pBAC).

Researchers reported that the average pBAC was reduced (compared to eating no food) by 50% with a SOBAR compared to only 25% by the snack mix. 

Although the reduction was even greater (68%) after eating the full multicomponent meal, researchers stressed that on a per calorie basis, the SOBAR outperformed other foods. 

The average reduction of pBAC per 100 calories of food consumed was higher for the reduced alcohol bioavailability bar (24.0%) than either the savoury snack mix (11.8%) or the multicomponent meal (10.7%).

Other studies have shown that the rate of gastric emptying appears to significantly influence alcohol absorption, and it is influenced by the volume and physical form (liquid vs. solid) of food consumed as well as its macronutrient composition.

Milk proteins, insoluble fibers, and polysaccharides that induce viscosity have all been shown to have pronounced effects on gastric emptying.

The core technology behind SOBAR's high efficiency is Alco-HOLD, which is a mixture of milk protein and insoluble oat fiber, formulated to hold alcohol in the stomach for a longer time where it can be inactivated.

These findings thus suggest that the reduced alcohol bioavailability bar can decrease pBAC with a high caloric-efficiency.

Asian flush

We asked Fisher if SOBAR could potentially reduce ‘Asian flush’, especially common in the Asian population.

The SOBAR's effect on flushing has not yet been formally studied. We have gotten feedback from testers who normally flush and have seen improvement of symptoms after consuming a SOBAR, but this ad-hoc testing has not been quantified​.

“However, if an individual that normally flushes has improvement when they eat conventional foods before and during drinking, it is expected that the SOBAR would have the same benefit but with a likely higher caloric efficiency​.”

Fisher said they might conduct a clinical study with consumers in Japan, South Korea or Singapore in the future.

The firm also warns consumers that they can still become intoxicated with intake of SOBAR. “(SOBAR) will not sober you up or lower your blood alcohol level if you are already intoxicated. (It) can slow alcohol absorption and you may experience a delayed effect from the alcohol consumed​.”

The firm was founded in 2017 to develop food products for alcohol misuse and diabetes prevention.

Fisher explained alcohol use and the prevalence of diet causing diabetes/pre-diabetes are major global health problems. The aim was to use these foods to improve public health without requiring consumers to make significant dietary or lifestyle changes.

Research on a diabetes product has started but a product launch would not be expected until 2022 or later.


Source: Journal of medicinal food

DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2019.0228

“Effect of a Snack Bar Optimized to Reduce Alcohol Bioavailability: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial in Healthy Individuals”

Authors: Joseph M. Fisher, et al​.

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