January 6, 1995
Web posted at: 5:20 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Remember oat bran? The trendy grain of the 80s could be making a comeback. The U.S. government is considering allowing certain oat products to make health claims on their labels.
In the 1980s, oat bran was touted as a cure-all for high cholesterol turning up in everything from cereal to muffins to cookies. But with all the hype and conflicting studies on the benefits of oat bran, people started to lose interest.
"I'm really healthy. I work out. I have a balanced diet. I don't feel any need to eat oat bran if I don't like it," said one woman who does care for it.
If a U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal is approved, oat bran could start topping grocery lists again.
The FDA is considering whether to allow oat bran manufacturers to promote their product with a health claim saying "diets high in oat bran or oatmeal may reduce the risk of heart disease."
The product would have to have at least 13 grams of oat bran or 20 grams of oatmeal and be low in fat and cholesterol.
There have been conflicting studies on the benefits of oat bran. An FDA spokesman says the Quaker Oats Company has done additional studies, and they look promising.
George Washington University professor Wayne Callaway , a scientific advisor for Quaker, said, "A moderate-size bowl of bran, oat bran, or a larger bowl of oatmeal lowers cholesterol about by about 5 to 6 milligrams per deciliter, that's one more increment that we can do to help bring our cholesterol down to safer levels."
This would be the first health claim allowed for specific foods. The FDA already allows messages regarding nutrients such as calcium.
Quaker says a short and simple message would be more useful to consumers than a wordy one with lots of qualifiers.
But the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest thinks such a claim would mislead people.
"We're concerned that the FDA's proposal would turn the clock back to the days when specific foods were promoted as magic bullets in the fight against disease," said center spokesman Bruce Silverglade.
Still, advocates of a new health claim say consumers are smarter than that now and only products with lots of fiber such as oatmeal, oat bran cereals and some muffins could carry the label.
Other foods such as oat bran pretzels and chips probably wouldn't qualify.
The FDA proposal is just a proposal. An official said it could be months before the agency makes a final decision on whether to allow the health claim. But he added, the weight of scientific evidence is tipping in oat bran's favor.
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