The Low Carb Luxury Newsletter: 
Volume III / Number 17: September 13, 2002: Page 3
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      Advice Lady         

A well-known low-carber in the community answers your questions about everything from nutrition to family issues, stress, and heck — even your love life. She's been the "go to gal" for awhile now when people need a little advice. And who is she? Well, we're not telling. She remains anonymous so that she can better give very frank advice. She doesn't pull any punches. You can remain anonymous too if you want — Just think "Dear Abby" — you know, signing off like "Harried in the Workplace" or "Desperate for Carbs in Detroit". Send in your question to The Advice Lady at

We received six letters in the last month asking about the "heart check" logo (the American Heart Association's Official "stamp"), and if it should influence their purchase of products. We addressed this last year, but I think it needs repeating, so here's the deal:

I've recently begun a low-carb diet and have convinced my family to join me in at least giving it a try. Here's my dilemma — my husband has started shopping along with me (to "learn the ropes" he said), and has been noticing that most of the products that have the "Heart Healthy" seal-of-approvals are no-no's on this diet. This has him rethinking the validity and safety of this diet. Please help me understand this apparant contradiction.


Maryanne S.

Dear Maryanne,

This is a timely letter indeed as new information about how the "heart check" logo (the American Heart Association's official "stamp") gets used has been discussed in a great op-ed piece by Fox News.

Here's the skinny:

heart check logo The AHA sells its "heart check" logo to companies who want to sell their food products by exploiting the AHA's good name. For a first-year fee of $7,500 per product, and subsequent renewals priced at $4,500, companies are permitted to market qualifying products as "heart healthy." Several hundred products now carry the heart-check logo. You do the math.

It's all about Money and Politics.

Political correctness is why General Mills' Frosted Wheaties, but not Post's Frosted Shredded Wheat, is heart-healthy. The Post brands are owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris, and tobacco company affiliates are barred from the Food Certification Program.

So here's the drill for the AHA's program: Pass the political correctness check, pony up a bank check and then get the heart check. Don't worry that the science doesn't check.

The Food Certification Program deceives consumers by implying that certain brands are proven to help prevent heart disease. Adding insult to injury, consumers pay up for the more expensive brands that can afford to dance with the AHA. Pricey Tropicana grapefruit juice is "heart healthy," but supermarket bargain brand grapefruit juice isn't?

In actual fact, NONE of those "Frosted Cereals" OR high sugar juices should be getting any sort of heart healthy approval. Foods and beverages qualifying for the heart-check mark include those that are considered low fat, low saturated fat, low cholesterol and low sodium, and have at least 10 percent of the recommended daily value of one or more of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron or dietary fiber.

Yet, while conventional wisdom — at the "heart" of the AHA's recommended diet, (which it says it comes up with after perusing a wide array of studies) — says low fat equals heart-health, the truth is that the science simply isn't there.

In November 1997, Harvard University researchers noted in a New England Journal of Medicine study, "The results of [studies] between dietary fat and coronary disease have been inconsistent." Their own study of more than 80,000 women over 14 years reported no statistically significant associations between total fat, animal fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and risk of heart disease.

In addition, a recent article in the journal Science summarized the state of the knowledge about dietary salt and high blood pressure: "After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished."

So the AHA's "conventional wisdom" is built on a house of cards. Indeed more recent studies show significant effects of high SUGAR on heart disease, cholesterol and even strokes. But the AHA makes no judgement call on sugar inclusion in assigning heart-healthy status on food products. A product consisting of 100% sugar would earn the heart check seal.

Give this information to your husband, Maryanne and see if this opens his eyes a bit.

                                                                             The Advice Lady

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