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FDA endorses psyllium bran cereal

Kellogg's Bran Buds cereal
Kellogg's Bran Buds cereal   
February 18, 1998
Web posted at: 3:20 p.m. EST (2020 GMT)

From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey

(CNN) -- Move over oat bran. The new kid on the help-your-heart cereal aisle is psyllium.

The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that psyllium, a plant grown in India, contains fiber that, like oat bran, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

The ruling gave Kellogg Co. a boost, allowing the cereal company to advertise the benefits of it All Bran Bran Buds cereal, which contains psyllium.

The FDA's decision also allows dietary supplements containing that type of soluble fiber to advertise its heart benefit -- and FDA officials expect more psyllium-containing foods, from waffles to biscuits, to hit the market soon.

The FDA already had ruled that another fiber, from oats, reduced heart disease risks, a decision that prompted new advertising from dozens of cereals.

Kellogg's says psyllium has advantages over oat bran because it can be put in many non-breakfast foods the company plans to offer down the road.

"Pysllium is far more versatile. It's a far more concentrated form of fiber and it allows us to produce foods you eat throughout the day that are great-tasting and can come in a variety of forms," said Dr. Bill Mayer of the Kellogg Co. "So consumers will have an easier time fitting it into their lifestyle."

There is a downside, however. For now, consumers would have to eat four bowls of cereal with psyllium a day, combined with a low-fat diet, to reduce their overall cholesterol by just 5 percent.

"With one bowl of cereal, you're not going to get the full effect," cautioned Betty Campbell, FDA's acting director of food labeling. And if people eat a high-fat diet, "the soluble fiber does not fix it," she added.

Made from the dried husks of seeds grown mostly in India, psyllium is best-known as a laxative ingredient. But FDA's Campbell said 10.2 grams, the amount in about four bowls of cereal, should not be enough to cause diarrhea.

The consumer advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, balked at the FDA ruling, saying the new label sends the wrong message.

"Lots of foods, including fruits and vegetables, are high in soluble fiber. Unfortunately, the new FDA-approved health claim gives consumers the impression that a specific brand of cereal is somehow a magic bullet," said the group's Bruce Silverglade.

The group says the FDA should get out of the business of giving individual companies marketing advantages and provide more balanced nutrition messages.


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