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Researchers and General Mills Fight Growing Epidemic of Heart Disease Among Hispanic Americans.

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NEW YORK--(BW HealthWire)--March 29, 2001

New Study Shows Whole-grain Oat Cereal (Cheerios) May

Significantly Lower Cholesterol in Hispanic Americans

A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University and the University of Texas following 152 Hispanic men and women found that by simply eating one and a half ounces of a whole-grain oat cereal (Cheerios) twice a day may lower total blood cholesterol by an average of five percent or 11 points.

The study, sponsored by General Mills, will be presented next week at the Annual Meeting of Research Scientists, March 31 - April 4, in Orlando.

"In the past there has been a wealth of studies involving Anglo populations, but because of the rapidly increasing rates of cardiovascular disease among Hispanics, it is critical that we conduct clinical research addressing their needs as well," said Walter Palmas, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and co-author of the study.

Researchers warn that in the span of a single generation the rate of deaths due to cardiovascular disease (one in three) in the Hispanic population could meet or surpass the general population in the United States (one in two). According to National Institutes of Health, cardiovascular disease among Hispanic Americans is expected to increase over the next 20 years if trends are not reversed.

High cholesterol, a major risk factor and predictor for future cases of heart disease, already affects Hispanic Americans at an equal rate as the rest of America. About one of every two American adults across all ethnic and gender lines have higher-risk cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dl or higher, according to American Heart Association data.

"It is a major concern to us that within the Hispanic population children under 17 are more overweight than any other population group in the country, and unless we see a change in behavior, including more physical activity and better eating habits, this could lead to a future increase in heart disease and death," said Wahida Karmally, MS, RD, CDE, Director of Nutrition at The Irving Center for Clinical Research of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and lead author of the study.

Though rates of death are slightly better now, cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death among people of Hispanic origin in this country. About 33,000 Hispanic Americans die each year from heart disease and stroke, more than cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

Qualitative research among Hispanic Americans indicates that as a group they are more concerned about cancer or AIDS even though far more die of cardiovascular disease, according to nutrition scientist Eric Gugger, Ph.D., of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, a research arm of General Mills.

Education can be an effective tool in slowing the epidemic of heart disease among Hispanic Americans, Gugger said. "Not many people realize that they can take a proactive role in preventing high cholesterol or reducing their current cholesterol levels simply by making good food choices."

Researchers in New York City and San Antonio, Texas, studied 152 Hispanic men and women ages 30 to 70 years for a 12-week period. During the first six weeks, all participants were instructed to eat a specified diet in order to establish a steady, baseline cholesterol level. They maintained this diet throughout the 12-week period so that additional lowering of cholesterol is attributed to the whole-grain oat cereal (Cheerios).

During the second six-week period, half of the participants were given an unidentified whole-grain oat cereal (Cheerios) to eat daily, and the other half were given an unidentified corn cereal. On average, those who ate the cereal (Cheerios) achieved a significant reduction in blood cholesterol while those who ate the corn cereal did not.

The study reported nearly a 100 percent rate of compliance from those who participated, which is an indication that people had an easy time following the daily eating requirements, according to Gugger.

Cheerios is the number-one ready-to-eat whole-grain oat cereal in the world. Cheerios was called "Cheeri Oats" when General Mills first invented it in 1941 to provide a more convenient and better tasting alternative to cooked oatmeal.

The cholesterol-lowering benefits of Cheerios are further supported by a general population study that was peer-reviewed and published in 1998. Cheerios also qualifies for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's health claim that reads: Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

General Mills is headquartered in Minneapolis but has offices and plants across the country. Other popular brand names in the General Mills family include Betty Crocker, Gold Medal flour, Pop Secret Popcorn, Yoplait yogurt, Hamburger Helper and many others.

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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Mar 29, 2001
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