MANILA, November 28, 2005
 (STAR) About 95 employees of Abenson Inc. had set out to find out if their hearts were smart when they took the Quaker Oatmeal Smart Heart Challenge for 30 days, and came out of it happy and victorious! Who wouldn’t be elated when there was a marked difference in cholesterol levels, signifying that they are well on their way to having a healthy heart?

After 30 days of taking Quaker Oatmeal for breakfast, 72 percent of them lowered their total cholesterol levels by an average of 25 points.

Seventy-eight percent lowered bad cholesterol levels by an average of 24 points. Triglyceride levels were also lowered by an average of 45 points after 30 days of oatmeal intake.

Now on its third-year run in the Philippines, the Quaker Smart Heart 30-Day Challenge was specifically developed to demonstrate how oatmeal could help reduce cholesterol.

It started in Lafayette, Colorado, USA and became so successful that it has been adopted as a continuing program in many countries.

Two years ago, it was launched in the Philippines with employees of the Philippine Stock Exchange participating. Last year, Digitel employees took on the challenge. Both groups hurdled the challenge with amazing results.

"The Smart Heart Challenge seeks to make people prove to themselves the claim that soluble fiber from oatmeal, as part of a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease," says Raymond Valenzuela, brand manger of Quaker Oats Philippines.

Thirty four-year-old Abenson Inc. driver Wilfredo Imperial is this year’s biggest winner. By religiously eating oatmeal for breakfast, Imperial was able to bring down his cholesterol level by 74.2 points, his bad cholesterol level by 76.2 points, and his triglyceride level by 19.2 points.

"I used to be overweight and had very high cholesterol level. I was advised to bring my weight down if I wanted to be healthier. So along with eating Quaker oats every morning, I also jog and walk every weekend," Imperial says.

The oatmeal advantage

Oatmeal was awarded by the United States Food and Drug Administration the first-ever food-specific health claim because of its heart-healthy benefits.

It is to Quaker’s credit that this seal of approval had been given. Quaker initiated 37 scientific studies, compiled information and submitted this petition to the USFDA.

The company’s 40-year effort in the pursuit of better health paid off in 1997 when the oatmeal health claim was approved.

Simply put, oatmeal keeps away the bad cholesterol that human beings get from other foods.

"There are two types of cholesterol – good (high density lipoprotein or HDL) and bad (low density lipoprotein or LDL). Good cholesterol removes plaque from arteries and carries cholesterol from body cells to the liver where it is disposed of.

Bad cholesterol, on the other hand, creates plaques on artery walls, which can lead to heart attack and other related problems.

"The problem arises when there is too much bad cholesterol in the body, much more than what the body can convert to useful purposes," says Dr. Rodolfo Florentino, chairman and president of the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines (NFP) and medical consultant for the Smart Heart Challenge.

Florentino says people whose cholesterol levels are at 240 mg/dL have twice the risk of coronary heart disease as people who have below 200 mg/dL.

In the Philippines, heart disease and cardiovascular disease or stroke are the top killers.

Soluble fiber from oats, says Florentino, acts like tiny sponges that soak up cholesterol and remove it from the body.

Furthermore, studies show that eating three grams of oat-soluble fiber, which is equivalent to one serving, can help lower cholesterol in 30 days.

Doing this can reduce cholesterol by up to 10 percent, and can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent, according to studies.

Oatmeal contains a phytochemical called "phytic acid," which binds to certain minerals thought to cause cancer.

Likewise, oatmeal helps in weight control as it stays in the stomach longer and decreases hunger and other cravings.

In addition to heart-health benefits, oats can also help in the management of diabetes, weight control and prevention of obesity, and in the promotion of regular bowel movement.

Other emerging researches also confirm that oatmeal – or complex carbohydrates in general – is best for the brain because it contains fiber that resists digestion, slowing its breakdown and the subsequent release of sugars into the bloodstream.

This slow and even absorption of sugar is highly beneficial to the brain as it performs better on a minimal yet constant supply of sugar.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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