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Smart Start not so smart

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:26pm



Kellogg's, a company that has done a huge disservice to Americans by contributing to obesity with their highly-refined, sugary products, is trying to backpedal into the healthy food arena.

They've crafted a campaign to support the American Heart Association featuring acress Sela Ward. Her attractive face, familiar to many TV and movie viewers, does add a comforting face to their efforts.

What's in this cereal made by the manufacturers of Pop-Tarts, Cheez-It, Rice Krispies, and Chips Deluxe cookies?

There are, indeed, some healthy ingredients: oat bran, potassium; you can even get a version made with soy protein. But there's sugar listed as the second ingredient. High-fructose corn syrup is also listed prominently. (Remember this issue? High-fructose corn syrup causes overwhelming sugar cravings, causes your triglycerides to skyrocket, and is probably among the principal food ingredients that make you obese.)

Upon detailed questioning of my patients struggling to lose weight, this and products like it are often among the "healthy" foods they've gravitated towards. We spend a great deal of time dissuading them of this idea.

A one-cup serving of Smart Start is low in fat (1 gram) but contains 43 grams of carbohydates, of which there are 14 grams of sugar. There are a meager 3 grams of fiber. To me, this sounds like a cupcake.

The Kellogg's people are exceptionally clever marketers. Partner with the American Heart Association and movie stars? Brilliant! But is it true?

You should trust food manufacturer advertising about as much as you trust drug manufacturer advertising, which is to say not at all.

Kellogg's sold $10 billion dollars of food products last year. They are the world's leading producer of breakfast cereals. They are a leading producer of convenience foods: cookies, crackers, cereal bars, and frozen waffles under the brands Keebler, Pop-Tarts, Eggo, Cheez-It, Nutri-Grain, Rice Krispies, Famous Amos, and Kashi.

Can they cash in on healthy trends? They'll certainly try.

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