Burning and cutting calories through diet and exercise can turn into a struggle of trial-and-error, especially when you don’t get the desired results. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute conducted a series of experiments in search of what causes successful dieters and exercisers to experience plateaus and setbacks. Not getting the results you want, whether it’s weight loss or a healthier blood pressure and cholesterol reading can be discouraging, but a new study published in The FASEB Journal may offer a solution.

"It is well known that habitual consumption of poor diets means increased risk of future disease, but clearly this is not a compelling enough reason for many to improve their eating habits," said the study’s lead author Bruce Ames, director of the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at the University of California, Berkeley, in a press release. "However, a relatively easy intervention with something like the nutrient bar used in this study may help people to realize the positive impact that a diet with adequate nutrition can have in their daily lives, which may be a stronger incentive for change."

In a series of three trials, Ames and his research team studied 43 healthy, lean, overweight, and obese adults for two months as they were fed nutrient-dense bars twice a day. Participants’ blood pressure, cholesterol, blood-sugar levels, and weight were tracked before, during, and after the experiment. None of their exercise or eating habits changed throughout the experiment, yet many of them lost weight after incorporating nutrition bars into their daily lives.

Nutrition bars make up 57 percent of the bar market, beating out breakfast and granola bars, according to a recent consumer and retail market analysis. Nutrition bars that provide high amounts of protein are the most popular type, while energy, diet plan, healthy bars, and breakfast bars follow sequentially behind. Various manufacturers use a recipe blending together protein and fiber because it keeps hunger at bay, which has been shown to increase satiety among consumers. Nutrient-dense bars may be the solution to both fighting hunger and filling in nutrition deficiency gaps in modern diets.

When the body is deprived of nutrients like key vitamins and minerals, inflammation can occur, making weight loss increasingly difficult. According to medical internist Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, nutritional deficiencies will not only slow down the body and metabolism, but also trigger the body to crave more food than it needs because it is desperate to seek out necessary vitamins and minerals to fill the gap.

"If being healthy was as simple as 'losing weight' or 'keeping thin,' our ancient ancestors who lived in times of extreme food scarcity might still be with us today," said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, the editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, in a press release. "This report shows that what you eat is as important, if not more, than how much you eat and how many calories you burn in the gym."

Source: Ames BN, McCann JC, Shigenaga MK, et al. A multicomponent nutrient bar promotes weight loss and improves dyslipidemia and insulin resistance in the overweight/obese: chronic inflammation blunts these improvements. The FASEB Journal. 2015.