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Porridge Health Claims OK says Watchdog 2007-08-08

Posted by clype in Health.
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For hundreds of years it has been a staple of the Scottish diet, but the humble bowl of porridge/ porage was endorsed as a health food from an unusual source yesterday — ‘The ASA‘, the body which deals with complaints about advertising.

They have just endorsed a claim by porridge maker ‘Quaker Oats‘ that the hot breakfast cereal can help the body remove harmful ‘cholesterol‘, which can lead to blocked arteries and heart attacks.

The ruling came after a TV viewer challenged a claim in a commercial for ‘Quaker Oats’ that it contained a ‘soluble fibre called ‘β-Glucan‘ which naturally helps to remove  ‘cholesterol’ from the body’.

‘Quaker Oats’ claimed the blood ‘cholesterol’ lowering properties of oats were well documented and pointed out that health claims for oats lowering blood ‘cholesterol’ had been approved in the UK, USA and Sweden.’Quaker Oats’ explained that

  • One of the major uses of ‘cholesterol’ in the body was in the synthesis of acids in the liver, which were secreted as bile into the intestine where they were used to help digest fat.
  • The bile acids are mostly re-absorbed from the lower intestine and then recycled to the liver.
  • Oats contain a ‘soluble fibre’ called ‘Beta glucan’ which attaches to bile acids in the intestine and results in a greater than normal excretion from the body.
  • ‘Cholesterol’ in the body is then used to make new bile acids in the liver, so helping to lower ‘cholesterol’ levels in the blood.

However, although the considerable difference in bile acid excretion observed in some carefully controlled studies strongly supported their importance, the company was forced to acknowledge that this increase in bile acid excretion might not explain the entire ‘cholesterol’ lowering effect of oat soluble fibre — as believed by some investigators — so ‘Quaker Oats’ listed additional ways in which oats might lower ‘cholesterol’ levels.

In order to reflect the many potential beneficial effects of oats, the firm said that it used the expression ‘helps naturally remove cholesterol from your body’, as a precis of the way oats worked, and it did not feel it was misleading, but rather allowed it to present the ‘cholesterol’ lowering benefit of oats to consumers in a ‘concise, understandable and engaging manner’.

The British Advertising Clearance Centre agreed. In rejecting the complaint, ‘The ASA’ said ‘Quaker Oats’ had provided enough scientific evidence to support the claim:

‘We noted “Quaker Oats” contained at least 0.75 grammes of “beta glucan” per serving, which was the amount required by “The Joint Health Claim’s Initiative” to enable an oat/ ‘cholesterol’ lowering claim to be made.’

After taking advice, ‘The ASA added’:

‘Our expert considered that, although other ingredients of oats might contribute to the effect, there was sufficient evidence to support a “cholesterol” lowering effect of “beta glucan”.

‘We considered the totality of evidence supported the proposed action of “beta glucan” in increasing the excretion of “cholesterol” in bile salts.

‘We concluded that the claim “helps to remove cholesterol from the body” was unlikely to mislead.’

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