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FDA warns Cheerios about cholesterol claims

Cheerios cholesterol claim

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a notice to General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, saying that the claims that the cereal lowers cholesterol and treats heart disease are inappropriate. The FDA allows food labels to highlight some health benefits, but the language of those statements is highly regulated.

One of the missions of the FDA is to protect the public from snake oil salesmen who want to make a buck selling fake elixirs for health and longevity. The FDA is heavily lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry, and the agency often rules against claims for natural products that would divert profits away from drug manufacturers. The claim from General Mills that Cheerios can "lower cholesterol 4 percent in 6 weeks" is objectionable to the FDA because companies are not allowed to quantify the benefit of foods.

We never hear the whole story. The level of cholesterol in the body is regulated by the balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diet. The level is also affected by the cholesterol in animal products that we eat, by hydrogenated fats, and by the amount of soluble fiber in our diet. Oats are a good source of soluble fiber, and it is an ingredient of Cheerios. (Learn more about controlling cholesterol)
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The FDA tries to protect consumers from false claims, but it does a very poor job. The rules for food labeling have so many loopholes, that PAM cooking spray, which is basically 100% fat, can claim that it can be used for "Fat Free Cooking" by specifying an unrealistically small serving size. Also, Promise Fat Free Nonfat Margarine can claim that a serving has 0 grams of fat by hiding all the fatty acids as mono- and diglycerides.

In 2003, I wrote a letter to the FDA asking for changes to the labeling rules to prevent these abuses, but my request was denied. You can read about it in the web pages about Food Labels.
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora