Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cheers or Jeers for Cheerios??

Excerpts From Yahoo News

Popular cereal is a drug, US food watchdog says

Tue May 12, 10:05 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Popular US breakfast cereal Cheerios is a drug, at least if the claims made on the label by its manufacturer General Mills are anything to go by, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said.

"Based on claims made on your product's label, we have determined that your Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug," the FDA said in a letter to General Mills which was posted on the federal agency's website Tuesday.
Cheerios labels claim that eating the cereal can help lower bad cholesterol, a risk factor for coronary heart disease, by four percent in six weeks.

Citing a clinical study, the product labels also claim that eating two servings a day of Cheerios helps to reduce bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, the FDA letter says.

Those claims indicate that Cheerios -- said by General Mills to be the best-selling cereal in the United States -- is intended to be used to lower cholesterol and prevent, lessen or treat the disease hypercholesterolemia, and to treat and prevent coronary heart disease.

The rest of the Yahoo News article can be found here.

Now how silly is this?

Doesn't the FDA have anything better to do than go after the number one sold cereal in the country?

Is accusing Cheerios of being an illegally marketed drug just a little bit over the top?

I can see the news headlines.

Just Say No to Cheerios !!!!

Let us look at how silly this is on many levels, as Cheerios claims and the FDA's claims are both inaccurate.

Cholesterol, by itself, does not cause heart disease, although it can be used as a marker for heart disease. Taking cholesterol lowering drugs makes it more difficult to stratify your level of heart disease risk by masking your true cholesterol levels. If you knock out a radar station, does that mean that incoming missiles will be prevented? Just because you do not see the missiles coming in (high cholesterol levels on your bloodwork), does not mean they are not there. I use cholesterol levels taken off of medication to be a truer reading of risk.

Cheerios, being a processed carbohydrate, will raise your sugar levels, thereby raising your insulin levels, which leads to an increase in vascular inflammation in your arteries. This will increase your risk of heart disease. Not exactly what Cheerios advertises!!

Lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) without knowing your good cholesterol (HDL), triglycerides, and total cholesterol is not helpful. So any statement about lowering your bad cholesterol, without mentioning the effects on your good cholesterol, is misleading. Don't believe what you see advertised on food, especially if approved of by the FDA. Approvals are based more on politics and profits than health.

I have found the lowest heart disease risk in patient's whose Total Cholesterol divided by their Good Cholesterol (HDL) is below 4. The higher risk individuals have this ratio above 5. I have also seen many people lower their bad cholesterol, but also lower their good cholesterol and actually increase their heart disease risk. This can happen more frequently when on a low fat diet.

Who do you think has the lower risk of heart disease based on cholesterol levels alone?

Patient #1) Total Cholesterol = 240
HDL Cholesterol = 60
LDL Cholesterol = 145
Triglycerides = 110

Patient #2) Total Cholesterol = 180
HDL Cholesterol = 30
LDL Cholesterol = 115
Triglycerides = 100

Answers will appear later.

My opinion....

The FDA is playing games with the food industry and the public and I am not sure of their intentions. In the past, the FDA almost always tended to side with big business to promote sales of their products. In fact, the FDA food pyramid, which was formulated by our federal government with backing from all the major food industries, has for years encouraged an abundance of carbohydrates in the diet, with cereals produced by American industry at the forefront. This is not my view of the healthiest way to eat, and it has contributed to an increase in heart disease. But things are now changing in Washington. The FDA appears to be going after certain industries that were previously immune. When I figure out why the change of heart, I will be sure to let you know.

As for the purported health claims that Cheerios will lower your risk of heart disease, if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you!! Cheerios is a processed man-made breakfast food product, made up primarily of processed carbohydrates. As previously mentioned, processed carbohydrates, when eaten in abundance has been linked to an increase in heart disease, as well as obesity and diabetes. My suggestion is to pass on Cheerios, as well as most processed cereals.

OK, so getting back to my cholesterol quiz, which patient has a lower risk of heart disease based solely on cholesterol measurements?

Patient #1 has higher levels of all the cholesterol components and triglycerides. Patient #1 also has a ratio of 240/60 = 4.0

Patient #2 has lower levels of all the cholesterol components and triglycerides. Patient #1 has a ratio of 180/30 = 6.0

The envelope please.............

Patient #1 has a lower risk of heart disease based on the ratio of 4.0 . Why??The HDL or good cholesterol, in theory goes through the body and scavenges up or cleans up after the bad cholesterol or LDL. The best way to improve your ratio is too lower your processed carbohydrate intake, increase your healthy fat, protein and fiber intake, increase your exercise, and if able supplement with fish oils. This will raise the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your ratio to healthier levels.

For more information, or too develop a personalized wellness plan to include tips on healthy eating, please schedule your annual wellness exam.

As Ben Franklin once said, " An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! "

Steven Horvitz, D.O.
Board Certified Family Medicine
Founder of The Institute for Medical Wellness
128 Borton Landing Road, Suite Two
Moorestown, NJ 08057
Phone: 856-231-0590
Fax: 856-294-0311

For more information about Dr. Horvitz and The Institute for Medical Wellness.
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