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Cheerios and Cholesterol

By Mary_RD on Aug 04, 2009 12:00 PM in Tips & Updates
Edited By +Rachel Berman

Does Cheerios, or does it not, lower cholesterol levels?  Well, maybe, but don’t go making claims on the box.  That’s what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told General Mills three months ago when they warned them to stop making specific cholesterol-lowering claims on the Cheerios package and website.

It's the law!

The FDA will allow this claim:
“Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber may or might reduce the risk of heart disease.”

But this propaganda crossed the line:  
“Did you know that in just six 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 1½ cup servings daily of Cheerios reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.”  (The research was reported at the Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in April 2009.)

The FDA said the claim made Cheerios seems like a drug that could treat a disease.  If Cheerios wants to be a drug, then they need to file a new drug application with the FDA.  

I guess Cheerios made a prompt correction because that language is no longer on their website.  It seems to remain on boxes in my locale, but they should be gone soon. Funny that Cheerios had gotten away with the language for 12 years.  But now the FDA has more power to act on faulty health claims.  The Federal trade Commission (FTC) is keeping closer watch on national advertisers too.

Little Cheerio

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I think Cheerios are swell (but then, I’m a sucker for foods that have been around for more than 50 years).  And what’s not to like? Cheerios is a whole grain, low in sugar, and free of artificial flavoring and coloring.  For Pete's sake, Cheerios are fed to babies!  (I'm not talking about Honey Nut, Berry Burst, or the others - just plain old Cheerios.)

The soluble fiber in oats does help to lower blood cholesterol and, as such, reduce the risk of heart disease.  Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol absorption in the gastrointestinal track and signals the liver to produce less cholesterol as well.  Soluble fiber is found in foods like oatmeal, oat bran, barley, dried beans and peas, apples, strawberries, and other fruit.  On a cholesterol-lowering diet you should consume at least 5-10 grams (and ideally 10-25 grams) of soluble fiber per day.

The Bottom Line:

Food manufacturers should not even think about making unauthorized health claims.  While the science behind Cheerios’ claims might be strong, General Mills did not play by the FDA’s rules. In the Wall Street Journal, the director of FDA’s food safety center said the agency has noticed a tendency by the food companies to cross the line into the drug category.  Where will it end?  Right here, I guess.

Your thoughts…

Are you confused by health claims on food packages?  Should the FDA tighten up or lighten up?


Does anyone know what the Eco-Atkins diet consists of? i've heard its low carb and vegan but don't know what foods are allowed on it or what food you should avoid except meat.


Original Post by: kshandra

Does anyone know what the Eco-Atkins diet consists of? i've heard its low carb and vegan but don't know what foods are allowed on it or what food you should avoid except meat.


This is not the place to ask this question, try one of the forums.

On the topic of Cheerios, it is bad that they are making statements that aren't compliable with the FDA/FTC.. but let's face it.. it's Cheerios.. we were all raised with the idea that it is cholesterol-lowering.. and even if it doesn't lower it by 4%..10%.. whatever.. it's STILL a healthier choice over medication, or other sugary snack choices.

sorry, i'm not very computer literate. what's a forum and how do i get to the right one?


That Always angers me. My math teacher said that he eats cheerios because of the fiber when in fact there are so many more cereals that contain more fiber, protein, and amazing things to help our bodies function. Not that I don't like cheerios..they are a great snack and good for my little nieces to enjoy. 

This is part of the whole Codex plan.  Soon, only pharmasutical firms will be able to brag about their vitaminless, nutritionless foods being put on the market.  ''Scarry Times"

What about oatmeal?  Does it lower cholesterol levels?

Original Post by: kshandra

sorry, i'm not very computer literate. what's a forum and how do i get to the right one?


On the top of this page you'll see a tab that says "Community"  and when you click it the drop down menu will have an option called "Forums" and there you go!

You can also try a search at the top of the page, too.


I know my cholesterol went down significantly when I switched to Cheerios. I Have them five times a week, love them. But then, everything about my diet changed about that time. I think it's obvious that eating a healthy cereal for breakfast  would lower your cholesterol; especially when it replaces fried eggs, bacon, toast, sausage and biscuits with gravy!

"Food manufacturers should not even think about making unauthorized health claims."  Are you serious?  General Mills was making a true claim, one that was studied and proven by research.  The FDA is NOT claiming that Cheerios isn't doing what it says (lowering cholesterol), it's saying that Cheerios needs to be registered as a drug in order to make those claims.

For the FDA to dictate that only drugs can make a health claim is ludicrous.  We don't need more pill-popping, we need people to eat healthier.  Why would the FDA stop that?  Normal foods (not pills) have health benefits.  What about fish and their omega 3 fatty acids?  Can fish sellers no longer tout the healthy benefits of that?  What about all the benefits of non-enriched, whole grains?  If Whole Foods can cite a clinical study that says "eating X will reduce the risk of heart disease by Y%," then why shouldn't people be informed about it?

I would think that dieticians would lover for people to be more informed.  Mary_RD, how dare you side with some unelected group of bureaucrats when they stand against natural foods, healthy foods, and giving people reasons to choose something good at the supermarket.

Original Post by: re99

What about oatmeal?  Does it lower cholesterol levels?

Numerous studies show that beta-glucan from oats (oatmeal, oat bran, Cheerios) helps to lower blood LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). 

Swingstepark I am going to have to agree with you. I think it is ridiculous not to allow foods with proven health benefits to advertise those benefits. We allow drugs to tout their healing qualities when in reality the side effects are sometimes worse than what they are actually treating. Why not use something natural and healthy to deal with something rather than putting foreign chemicals in your body? The fda is all about the pharmaceutical companies and I hope more people start looking for natural health ways to deal with health problems instead of being so quick to jump on a prescription or over the counter drug.

I don't care what the FDA thinks about Cheerio's. It's a wonderful cereal and a healthy option. 

Food for thought swingsetpark. Good job!

To put it simply, soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber is most often found oats and oat-based foods, such as some cereals.  Cheerios is one of those cereals.  So is oatmeal (which is actually better in terms of soluble fiber).  I don't think there is anything wrong with printing a statement like "Contains __g of soluble fiber per serving, which may lower LDL cholesterol."  The only thing that I find wrong with the Cheerios advertisements are that it makes it appear that Cheerios is unique, when other cereals and foods are just as good (including oatmeal and other General Mills cereals).  But you can't fault them for others' lack of good advertising. 

To the post above by swingsetpark:

It seems you completely missed the point of the article and what the FDA is doing. Your point about foods having health benefits is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. Any fool knows certain foods have certain nutrients, vitamins, etc. The FDA is not debating that, nor does this even apply to the point they are making. This is about Cheerios stating on their boxes the following medical claim; “Did you know that in just six 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 1½ cup servings daily of Cheerios reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.” They're not telling Cheerios to remove the nutrition facts!

Also, the definition of a drug is "any substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or other animals." This does not just mean pills. A drug can include foods if they are registered under the FDA. The point of the FDA doing this is to let Cheerios know that if they are going to advertise their clinically confirmed research (even if it is true), they need to file an application to have their product registered as a "drug" under FDA standards. They are not saying that anything on the Cheerios boxes is untrue, it just cannot be legally put on there without a license.

Cherrios is not abiding by the rules, and obviously they realize that, because they are taking that information off the boxes.  The FDA is just following protocol, so that consumers don't think that this product is like a medical treatment. Cheerios could go out and file that application if they wanted to and the FDA obviously would look into approving it, so they could once again make those claims on their boxes.

I have a problem with their definition of a drug.

"  Also, the definition of a drug is "any substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or other animals." "

Eating a low calorie diet is turning my food into drugs, by this definition, if I am trying to mitigate or treat disease by losing weight. We know that certain foods have health benefits. We should be concerned with false claims, certainly. To define the term "drug" in such a way as to prevent manufacturers from stating scientifically proven benefits from food or herbs crosses the line, IMHO, and opens the gate to governmental abuse of power.

One thing I can say for sure is that FDA is not interested in any health benefit claims from anyone who is not in the BIG PHARMA industry, whether it is in the interest of the consumer or not. I hope this lights a bulb in your head.

What the FDA is doing here is preventing General Mills from informing the public about a true study.  That's the plain results of their actions.  What meghan0427 is saying is that in order to cite research as it relates to health, everyone with food to sell has to jump through the FDA's hoops, and that is somehow justified.  And why should it be justified?  There is little Congressional oversight for the FDA, so "we the peopl" don't get a say on what is right.  Their regulations carry the weight of law without having the backing of the people.

Registering a "drug" with the FDA is expensive and can take years.  Only giant companies like pharmaceuticals and, yes, Generall Mills could afford to do it.  So to be "legal," you have to have money, time, and lawyers.  That's a recipie for monopoly and oligopoly if I ever saw one.  But what about the local folk at the farmer's market?  If I'm an oat farmer and I'm selling some awesome jars of the tastiest oatmeal ever, can I say "These fantastic oats contain _g soluable fiber, so eating X about each day has been proven to lower your cholesterol."?  Do I seriously need permission for the FDA to say the truth?

We already have a mechinism for preventing companies big and small from lying to the public.  It's called "false advertizing."  If General Mills were making a false claim, then we could sue them and get them to knock it off.  But the truth?  Honestly, why should we get permission to speak the truth?

"A clinical study showed that eating two 1½ cup servings daily of Cheerios reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.”


This kind of statement always makes me mad. After all, if the consumption of Cheerios is only part of a diet, how on earth can one measure the effectiveness of the Cheerios themselves? How much of the cholesterol is lowered by the other foods in the diet? Not too scientific, if you ask me.


As a side note, amigos, and with my apologies:

If the government started a "Comunications and Grammer Administration," which regulated the use of language, then I would be sunk.  My typos and poor sentance structure would never pass regulation.  I'd be as black market as Cheerios!

They are called the Food and Drug Administration. 2 seperate words.  A food must be approved under a seperate category. Here is a direct link to the FDA, take a look at the site before claims are thrown around like "FDA is not interested in any health benefit claims from anyone who is not in the BIG PHARMA industry." That is completely bias and untrue.

As meghan0437 wrote, "A food must be approved under a seperate category."  I'm asking, "Why?"  My grandma has a garden full of corn, tomatos, peppers, onions, etc... Should I check the FDA's files to see if these are foods or not?  Have they approved my beloved tomatillo?  Whatever shall I do?

I am not attempting to side with the FDA, it just seemed that people were not getting the point of the article and what the rules are. I truly do not understand why every food and drug needs to be approved to make medical claims, it does seem odd. Once again swingsetpark, this article seems to be completely going over your head. Foods themselves to not need to be approved by the FDA stating they are foods, they just have to be approved by the FDA if you're going to make a medical claim about them, like eating so many cups per week will lower your cholesterol.

Their TV commercials still make that claim. 

I guess everyone is looking for that magic food that's pleasant and will do all kinds of nice things for you.  Truth is, it doesn't have to be Cheerios, which are relatively low in fiber compared other cereals. 

My cholesterol went from a high of 230 when I was at my heaviest, to 160 now.  I never eat Cheerios because I don't like them.  I eat whole grains, like shredded wheat cereal, oatmeal, brown rice and many other.  I also eat plenty of vegetables and several servings of fruit every single day.  Combine this with a diet low in saturated fat, that includes "good" fats, and it's a winner.

The article did not go over my head; I'm simply pointing out how ridiculous the FDA's regulations are and how invasive and over-reaching they have become.  Even knowing that making a specific claim about health benefits subjects a food to the FDA's regulations, I still ask, "Why?"

General Mills' claim was researched.  I've heard no reports that General Mills have been sued for false advertizing.  Their study resulted in a specific set of health benefits.  Why should accurate information by "approved" or "forbidden" by the FDA?  If the study is flawed, then Kellog or Kashi (same people) would be the first to jump all over it to throw egg on General Mills' face.  As others on this from have pointed out, Cheerios have been making this claim for years.  Isn't that plenty of time for people to make the decision on if it truly is helping their health or not?  Even specifically, people should know if the Cheerios really did lower their cholestorol, and by what amount.

If we allow that the FDA's intentions are good, actions still have this thing called "unintended consequences."  The consequences in this case: The FDA has stopped General Mills from educating people about a healthy way to reduce cholesterol.

IMO, It's one thing to imply or to openly make a general claim that a given cereal is good for you; it's another entirely to claim that it treats high cholesterol.  Thus, the old 'unsinkable taste of Cheerios' ad campaign, which did not make any specific health-related claim, would probably pass muster even in today's increasingly-litigious atmosphere.

Personally, I've never really given much thought to current Cheerios campaign, but at the end of the day, the law is the law.  I have to respect General Mills' decision to comply with the law instead of whining.

The danger with a more specific claim is that it might prevent people from seeking more effective treatment (especially those of us who dislike going to the doctor, and will go only if our friends, significant others, or relatives drag us in by our hair).

It's all too easy to say, "Well, I'm eating my Cheerios, so I'm okay," when in fact, as so many have already pointed out, Cheerios are only one part of a Cheerio-eater's diet.  You can eat six servings of Cheerios every morning, but if you dust them in sugar, douse them in heavy cream, and eat a Triple Whopper every evening, you're still going to have major problems.  A medical professional can measure your cholesterol level, say, "So you eat Cheerios for breakfast, big deal," and point (or in the case of my wonderful doc, shove) you in the right direction.  A box of cereal can't.

Likewise, the FDA must consider both efficacy and safety when approving the use of a given substance as a drug -- and until we test Cheerios for both in proper double-blinded scientific studies, they simply won't pass muster.  Admittedly, as far as I know, nobody has ever died of a Cheerios overdose -- but if they bend the rules for Cheerios, then they'll have to bend them for Zombinase XL or whatever they want to call the next 'miracle' drug.

Admittedly, you might say that a claim like, "High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids!" implies efficacy in a medical sense -- but it makes no outright statement to such effect, and a line must be drawn somewhere.  Any line we draw is inherently arbitrary.  We could tell the food companies that they can't say that, either, but then what would they be able to say?  "High in ... Flavor."

Of course, that would be my ideal -- because I would love to see people doing their homework and buying food that's good for them based on a little research, rather than advertisers' claims -- but it's also not really realistic right now.  If idealism is what guides the ball towards the pins at the end of the lane, it's realism that gets it rolling.

One last bit: considering how prone people are to manipulation by marketing (we need only re-examine the 'low fat cookie' phenomenon to demonstrate this), I would rather see the FDA err on the side of caution -- not because General Mills is trying to dupe people into buying a product that isn't really good for them, but because if they let GM do it, a legal precedent is set that will allow other companies the same leeway.

I would not put it past any major corporation to make ridiculous claims about its products -- think of "whole grain" Lucky Charms (yes, they're whole grain, but that's probably the only reason one doesn't immediately keel over dead after eating a bowl).

One of the biggest things I've noticed about this thread (besides everyone picking on swingsetpark (-:) is that no one has responded/addressed Mary's original questions;

Are you confused by health claims on food packages?  Should the FDA tighten up or lighten up?

Am I confused by the health claims on food packages?  No.  Do I think the average person is?  Yes.  I have a nutrition background and understand more than most.  I would think that school's would be educating our youth about this and how to read food labels but after a long 'what does this mean' with my 16 year old neice over the weekend, I see that this is clearly not the case.  Obviously the FDA did a poor job of educating my generation (I'm in my 30's) which is partly why our children are so obese.

As far as tightening up or lightening up, I can't pick a side here.  I think it's hard for them to 'tighten up' when everything they are doing is on going.  Let's face it, we live in a democratic society - you can't just tell people what to do.  Not too mention, their claims are not always golden.  How many times have these so called regulation agencies had to go back on their claims on things that are 'safe' - Asbestos and lead paint anyone?  However, 'lightening' up may cause a free for all from foods that everyone now knows are in fact bad for you (hydrogynated oils, HFC Syrup, Soda).

Meghan0427 - I have to say I agree with you about making Cheerios remove their studies claim.  What sort of study was this?  Was it done by an outside agency to produce unbiased results?  Double blind?  Or was it done by Cheerio's themselves?  Anyone who wants to see the one-sidedness of a company funded study should check out the Activia site and then review all the posts here about how it can screw you up more than it straightens you out (myself included).

To me, bottom line is this; Whole grain natural foods are better for you than not and a breakfast of Cheerio's is probably substationally better than one containing Bagels, Bacon, Egg's, Sausage, Donuts, etc. etc. regardless of the cholesterol ramifications.

I find Cheerios to be a good snack even on its own.  I'm always watching my calories and my husband and i have found them to be the lowest in calories and sugar compared to others.  we don't rely on them for fibre, we get that from fruits and vegys.

No one will lower their cholesterol by just eating the cereal.  Like most people they change their eating habits all around so i don't agree about their statement its just marketing.  Just like the health check with the heart and stroke labels.  when 20/20 did a show on them they proved that most of the foods were worse for read your labels and don't rely on what is being said.  Ingredients is the key to good health.


I wish the FDA would close, and let the free market and freedom of individuals run things. I am tired of waiting years to get new medicine at billions of dollars, causing them to cost more. I am tired of regulations making my decisions for me. I am tired of them approaching regulating my right to choose what foods and vitamins and herbs I want to purchase, based on my own learning. I am tired of medicines being approved only to find out later that they can kill, which means my tax money was spent approving a drug that wasn't even safe anyways, so my money was poured down the drain.

And I am tired of the revolving door with executives in the FDA, also being former or prior executives to tobacco companies, and pharmaceutical companies. No conflict of interest possibility would allow me to trust any party in the contract.

Let the free markets reign, and safety and choice is my own responsibility, and I am safer then ever, more confident than ever, and my freedom which is most important, reigns supreme.

The real cost of regulation ar=2001&month=05

sounds like you are tired.....

I think a lot of us are.

Its all about control of the masses and they do it on every level.


"If the FDA is just following protocol,..."


We follow the thought pattern of " the end of the day, the law is the law" 


I can remember growing up and hearing about the"slippery slope"

Well my friend...we are close to the bottom of that "slippery slope"

Is seems that the only thing that regulates regulations are...REGULATIONS!!!

Most people on this sight have become proactive with their own health...that is a very good thing, however, many still believe in not getting involved if it does not directly them...

I hate to be the one to point this out, but al lot is happening to out beloved country while so many only look out for number one... 

Original Post by: irongirlmj

sounds like you are tired.....

I think a lot of us are.

Its all about control of the masses and they do it on every level.


Yes I won't reply to many posts, but to clarify...not tired physically. Can operate on about 4 hours sleep per night, control my weight easily, and am not overweight at all, nor suffering from any ill health such as high cholesterol, bp, diabetes, insulin resistance, or anything else.

Health comes from higher up, based on the level of your consciousness, and so does your energy level.

Just tired of the social engineering that most of society seems to prefer rather than taking responsibility for themselves. If your sad means you are tired of their constant attempts to control the masses as well, you are an enlightened girl, and will find great success if you believe it and accept it.

~Peace and Light~

What disturbs me is that I found out that nutrition facts (such as calories) can be up to 20% (I believe that's what I read) off ... Meaning that a statement of 300 calories for a frozen entree may be 60 calories low! Now if you eat a lot of prepared food, this should really bother you if you are trying to lose weight. I'm convinced that it's not just eating out that can kill your weight loss program. The more unprocessed food you buy and prepare yourself, the more accurate you can be in counting calories (and getting proper nutrition).



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I personally love Cheerios! I always thought they were boring until about a month ago and now I eat them every morning. I'm only 19 so as a child Cheerios was what I was allowed to pour sugar over. But now I see that Cheerios are great all by themselves although I prefer some raisins mixed in. 

don't any of you have taste buds? Cheerios are bland and boring! and you may want to check the nutrition label. This food has almost no nutritional value, at least by what can be seen on the label.

elsezenia - agree!  Once I tried Kashi's Heart to Heart I could never eat Cheerio's me they taste highly processed and bland. 

Finally, a blog that dumbs down the media hype and gives the straight facts. Packaging is extremely mis-leading and any new trends set on the market cause of flurry of marketers to ''update'' their branding.

Even still, I love my (regular) Cheerios esp. with strawberry yogurt and fresh fruit. But I strictly consume it to maintain my intake of grains and starch in the morning; not because of cholesterol. Cheers!

the dogs in my training classes love Cheerios as a food reward! They don't care if it is fiberous or not!

To jediprice:

No I knew what you were talking about i knew it wasn't physical...Laughing

Up at 4:15am, thats crazy.....

Our dogs like the plain cheerios as well.....


Ha...At costco, all the offending messages are blacked out with a jiffy marker...that's a good way to create jobs.

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