Friday, May 15, 2009

Cheerios is a Drug??

No kidding ... a drug. That is, according to the FDA.

In fact, General Mills has been told to change the marketing of its popular Cheerios whole grain cereal, as the health claims it currently uses classify it as an unapproved drug.

The food giant has until next week to tell the FDA the steps it intends to take to correct its product marketing, or it may be faced with an injunction or product seizure.

They sent Cheerios a letter, stating that their cholesterol lowering claims implied the product was intended to treat or prevent a disease – hypercholesterolemia and heart disease.

Here are the Problem Claims

FDA specifically took issue with the following claims, made on the cereal packet:
  • "you can Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks"
  • "Did you know that in just 6 weeks Cheerios can reduce bad cholesterol by an average of 4 percent? Cheerios is ... clinically proven to lower cholesterol. A clinical study showed that eating two 1 1/2 cup servings daily of Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol."

What’s allowed? Better Symantics
The line between functional foods and drugs is a fine one, and often depends on the intricacies of the wording used in health claims.

General Mills said it based its product statements on the FDA-approved soluble fiber heart health claim. The science supporting its product is not in question, it said.

"The FDA is interested in how the Cheerios cholesterol-lowering information is presented on the Cheerios package and website,” said General Mills, adding that it will work with the agency to reach a resolution.

FDA was particularly concerned that the claims relating to cholesterol reduction were presented as stand-alone claims and not as part of the authorized health claim that soluble fiber from whole grain oats can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

In addition, a claim must not attribute any degree of risk reduction, whereas the Cheerios product states that it can help lower cholesterol by 4 percent in six weeks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mediterranean Diet Lowers Blood Pressure

The Mediterranean Dietary approach can help lower blood pressure. This, according to this report published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adherence to this way of eating was associated with lower blood pressure.

This adds to the data indicating that the consistent health benefits of this approach. For instance, recent research has indicated that the diet may have benefits for arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, hearth health and blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, lung disease, and allergies.

The Mediterranean dietary approach consists of healthy foods (described in the now popular Mediterranean Food Guide Pyramid), but also in their behavioral habits of healthy eating. This combination synergistically contributes to the final outcome: healthy hearts, longer lives, and delicious food.

Acupuncture (who knows why?) Eases Back Pain

This really makes no sense. Sticking needles into your skin along the "meridians" that allegedly course through your body.

But here's the issue:
knowing WHY something works is not a prerequisite to it working. And, if we don't understand it yet, if it does not fit with any of our ways of thinking, if it makes no sense based on our theories of physiology ... maybe we should reconsider what we think we think we know.

Because, for back pain, any kind of acupuncture, whether it pierced the skin or not, eased chronic lower back pain in a group of adult patients. Click here for the article.

"All were superior to usual care," said Daniel Cherkin, lead author of a report published in the May 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic back pain. People receiving acupuncture are more likely to get better."


This trial, the largest randomized one of its kind, was funded by the National Center for complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Medication use in all the acupuncture groups decreased immediately and over the next year. About two-thirds of patients were taking medication, mostly painkillers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). By eight weeks, that had declined to 47 percent in the acupuncture groups and 59 percent in the usual-care group.

We just don't know why acupuncture is so effective, although some theories persist. According to this article, "it's possible that the "superficial" acupuncture still kicks off a cascade of physiological processes that result in relief."

That is science lingo for, "um, it looks like it works."

Janet Konefal, a licensed acupuncturist and assistant dean for complementary and integrative medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said she was not surprised that non-puncture stimulation had equal effects.

"You can stimulate a point with pressure, needle, electricity, even now with laser light and different frequencies of laser light," she said. "'Pecking' on a point is a Japanese technique for stimulation. You might use that with someone who is older or weak in their constitution. That could explain why two different methods of stimulation work equally well."

More information
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more on acupuncture.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What The World Eats

This series of pictures is stunning. It shows both WHAT the people of the world eat, and HOW MUCH they eat in one week.

You have GOT to see this.

Food Quality
Please note the healthy nature of the foods in ethnic cultures, compared to the traditional fare of the standard American diet.

Food Quantity
The other amazing feature of this series is the comparison of the volume of foods consumed, culture by culture.

I'd love to get your thoughts on this series of pictures.

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