Cholesterol-lowering version of breakfast cereal classic makes Australian debut

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21 Sep 2017 --- Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing has unveiled an Australian-first extension to its iconic Weet-Bix, the country’s leading breakfast cereal, aimed at supporting the one in three Australian adults who need to manage their cholesterol levels for their heart health.

Labeled Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering, the product is claimed to be the first cereal product in the country to harness plant sterols to effectively reduce cholesterol levels over four weeks with just two biscuits (one serve) consumed daily.

Set to hit major supermarket shelves in Australia this September, the breakfast innovation contains plant sterols, which are clinically proven to reduce LDL (or bad) cholesterol by up to nine percent in four weeks. The efficacy of Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering was verified via a clinical trial involving Australian adults with high cholesterol, conducted in 2016 by a team of researchers at the University of South Australia.

“This product contains two grams of plant sterols in a single serve [2 biscuits]. Two grams is the RDA to reduce cholesterol. In order to achieve this with other applications requires a much higher consumption. For example, you would need 2-3 servings of milk with plant sterols (600ml) and 25g of margarine spread,” a spokesperson for the company tells NutritionInsight.

Consuming more than two Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering daily will not provide added sterol benefits.

The ingredient list is as follows: wholegrain wheat (88 percent), plant sterol esters [plant sterols (5 percent)], raw sugar, salt, barley malt extract, antioxidants (mixed tocopherols, ascorbyl palmitate), vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate), mineral (iron).

Click to EnlargeAn Innova Market Insights analysis of indexed global new product launches featuring plant sterol (+8.5 percent) and low cholesterol claims (+10.4 percent) found steady if not spectacular growth (2011-2016), with margarine and dairy drinks dominating product launch activity.

Breakfast cereals featuring plant sterols remains a very niche area in terms of product launch activity. Innova Market Insights has tracked just 16 breakfast cereals launches featuring plant sterols since 2011, including O Forest Oat Flax Golden Oat Bran (Malaysia, Nov 2016). Most of the breakfast cereal products featuring cholesterol reduction claims achieve this through the incorporation of oat beta glucan, which, like plant sterols, benefits from approved cholesterol reduction claims in the EU.

“Weet-Bix has long been a nutritious breakfast staple for millions of Aussies every day and we are now taking it to another level. This new product makes it easier than ever before for Australians to take charge of their heart health,” says Kevin Jackson, CEO of Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing.

The launch comes at a time when worrying statistics demonstrate Aussies’ cholesterol complacency. In a nationwide poll of 1,000 Australians, commissioned by Sanitarium and conducted by Galaxy Research, two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents revealed they do not have their cholesterol tested once every two years, as commonly advised by health practitioners. Almost half (43 percent) of these respondents are aged 45 and above, who fall within the high-risk group.

Complacency and a general lack of understanding of the factors influencing cholesterol levels were primary reasons for not getting tested. One in four (23 percent) declared they have never even thought about it, while others feel maintaining a healthy lifestyle (18 percent) or a healthy diet (17 percent) alone is sufficient.

Sanitarium’s Weet-Bix Cholesterol Lowering contains two grams of plant sterols per serve, the recommended daily intake to reduce cholesterol, alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle, recommended by the Heart Foundation.

Plant sterols are known to naturally lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive system. They are found in a variety of foods like grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds but only in very small quantities.

Sanitarium will hold exclusive permission in the Food Standards Code for Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) for up to a year to include an increased level of plant sterols in cereals. As such it will be the only cereal product on the market to contain 2 grams of plant sterols per serve. Prior to this, regulations only permitted a maximum of approximately 1 gram of plant sterols in a single serve of food.

A full version of this article appears in the September issue of the Innova – Food and Beverage Innovation newsletter. 

By Robin Wyers

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