Health Canada criticized over health claim data

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health canada, Nutrition

Oats can reduce cholesterol says Health Canada, but supporting data has been called for
Oats can reduce cholesterol says Health Canada, but supporting data has been called for
A former Health Canada official has criticized the agency for failing to publish health claim-backing data, after recently approving an oat fiber-cholesterol health claim.

Mary L'Abbe, the former director of Health Canada's nutritional sciences bureau, told the Canadian press the agency needed to make public the evidence that had bank-rolled the oat claims, along with the other four disease reduction claims Health Canada has approved.

These included a plant sterol-cholesterol claim approved in May.

"With regards to transparency, I am still disappointed that the plant sterol claim was approved last May, yet the evidence to support such a claim has still not been posted — only a summary document,"​ said L'Abbe, a 31-year Health Canada veteran who left in 2007.

She added: "Health Canada's lack of transparency in this matter is disappointing, and opposite that of the (US Food and Drug Administration), which has published detailed scientific reviews of the evidence that was considered in approving or denying health claims in the US. Hopefully they are planning to post the evidence that supports the oats claim."

A search by on the Health Canada website indicated such information was not immediately apparent. Health Canada was not available for further comment at the time of publication to respond to the allegations or provide guidance to the data highlighted by L’Abbe, if it exists publicly.

The oat claim’s confirmation was welcomed by PepsiCo, owner of Quaker Oats, which said it would add the claim to 11 of its oat-based products in early 2011.

Decades of healthy eating

The claims can only be used on products that meet nutritional profiles regarding vitamin and mineral levels, as well as levels for cholesterol, sodium and saturated fat.

"Canadians have been enjoying Quaker oats for decades as part of healthy eating, and the science supports this,"​ said PepsiCo director of nutritional science and regulatory affairs, Randall Kaplan.

"A large body of evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness of oat fibre consumption in reducing blood cholesterol. Health Canada's announcement means that we can communicate something very tangible to Canadians: eating foods that contain oat fibre, such as oatmeal, helps reduce cholesterol."

Other claims approved by Health Canada include: folate and neural tube defects; calcium-vitamin D and osteoporosis; fruits and vegetables and cancer; dietary fats and heart disease; sodium and hypertension.

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