FDA to review link between diet, disease

May 09, 1994|By Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- Is a Stone Age diet modern society's best weapon against heart disease and cancer? Government scientists are gearing up to take an in-depth look at that question.

The Food and Drug Administration will assemble health experts from around the country here this week to update known facts about the association between dietary fiber and these two killer diseases.

Scientists who played key roles several years ago in generating intense public interest in the possible cholesterol-lowering effects of oat bran will participate, along with skeptics.

Recent studies that suggest links between low-fiber diets and cancer also will be reviewed, the agency said.

FDA officials say one purpose of the conference, to be held Thursday and Friday, is to determine if there's sufficient agreement among scientists to allow food and dietary supplement manufacturers to make health claims about fiber on their packaging labels.

Under its new food labeling law, the FDA refused last year to allow food labels to bear claims of associations between dietary fiber and cancer or coronary heart disease.

However, the agency's official position is that consumption of diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fruits, vegetables and grain products that contain fiber -- particularly soluble fibers like those found in legumes and oat bran -- may be associated with reduced risk of heart disease.

In announcing plans for this week's review of the topic, the FDA said that it "intends, if the evidence justifies, to authorize any claims that are warranted" and wants to learn what the experts can agree on.

Dr. Tim Byers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is one of the nutrition experts scheduled to participate. He will chair a session on the relationship between fiber and cancer.

Dr. James Anderson, the University of Kentucky nutritionist who kicked off the oat bran surge several years ago with studies that he said showed that soluble fiber in oat bran and similar foods reduced the "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol more than some anti-cholesterol drugs, also will participate in the conference.

The FDA has invited public participation in the meeting. For information, call James T. Tanner of the FDA Office of Special Nutritionals at (202) 205-4168.

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