Sunday, February 10, 2008

Health Check Technical Advisor Doesn't Recommend Health Check

Maybe I'm reading into this, but I don't think so.

Fran Berkoff is a nutrition columnist for the Toronto Sun and Canadian Living. She's the author of Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal and she's a member of the 7 person Technical Advisory Committee for the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program.

Today in her nutrition column for the Toronto Sun she wrote a piece for Heart Month entitled, "All the Right Foods your Heart Desires". Heart Month, in case you forgot, is the Heart and Stroke Foundation's largest grassroots fundraising initiative.

Sounds like a perfect fit for a Health Check plug, and clearly Fran's not afraid to plug things as in the article she plugs Kellogg's All Bran Guardian cereal (Fran's worked for Kellogg's on multiple initiatives in the past) and Canada's Food Guide.

So in this nutrition column about foods that are Heart Healthy, written in the midst of Heart Month - the Heart and Stroke Foundation's major fundraising initiative, written by one of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check technical advisors, an advisor who is clearly comfortable promoting corporate programs and products, I think it's rather telling that she does not recommend that folks seek out the Health Check in making their product choices!

Can't say that I blame her.

[FYI: Kellogg's All Bran Guardian cereal's second ingredient is sugar. It contains over 83% the sugar of fruit loops (10 times the sugar of Cheerios), almost 50% more sodium than fruit loops, and like fruit loops it's also made with BHT, the food additive the CSPI recommended we ought to avoid if at all possible. Why am I not surprised that this particular product has a Health Check?]

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  1. Anonymous10:46 am

    Kind of off subject, but your note on All Bran Guardian reminded me. Have you checked out the new chocolate and oat Fibre One bars? Fibre One is a sugar-free cereal a lot of diabetics can enjoy, but they had best steer clear of the sweet, gooey bars with the same name. First two ingredients? Sugar followed by chocolate chips, and only THEN do oats come in the list.

  2. I am not quite sure I understand the issue with Guardian cereal. Yes, Guardian has more sugar than Cheerios, but it also has double the fibre (of which over half is psyllium fibre which has shown to be beneficial for heart health, hence the reason it was mentioned in the column), equal calories (which is ultimately the currency of weight), and a lower Glycemic Index. And I am almost certain that Guardian would leave me feeling satiated longer than Cheerios. So what does it ultimately matter if one has more sugar when they have the same number of calories and the higher sugar option also has more fibre (which I am supposed to be getting more of) and leaves me filling fuller longer (so I will be less likely to be eating again 45 minutes later).

    Sugar, in moderate amounts, is perfectly acceptable within a healthy diet. It has a functional role in high fibre cereals – it adds sweetness to make the bland taste of fibre more palatable. Bran Buds also has more sugar than Cheerios – should I stop eating them and switch to the overly processed, lower fibre, high GI Cherrios? As well, some of us prefer not to have the after taste of artificial sweeteners added to every food in the world.

    And the sodium level is hardly cause for uproar – it contains only 7% of the recommended Daily Value per serving.

  3. No uproar JD, and thank you for a clearly thought through comment.

    Certainly my position on added sugar and "healthy for you" endorsements has been made ad nauseum on this blog and I imagine need not be made again.

    If I put psyllium fibre in Fruit Loops and made them with whole grains would that make them "good for me"?

    Also, I'm curious, other than the higher fibre content, is there anything else you're basing your increased satiety on?

  4. No, I am not basing increased satiety on anything other than fibre. Cereals in general don't do much for satiety in my books (I would far rather have scrambled eggs for breakfast) but higher fibre ones are certainly an improvement over lower fibre ones (to me).

  5. Anonymous10:52 am

    Agreed jd. Sugar is 4 calories per gram just like any other carbohydrate. It does not contribute to obesity any more than other carbohydrates (a calorie is a calorie). Yes, something that contains sugar CAN be part of a HEALTHY diet. Do you think most people would enjoy eating oatmeal or bran buds without some amount of sweetness? Let's have some perspective - a serving of Guardian cereal has less sugar than an apple and more fibre.