Is Cocoa Puffs no longer heart healthy?

Until recently, Cocoa Puffs enjoyed the endorsement of the American Heart Association (AHA) as a heart-healthy food.

For a price, the AHA will allow food manufacturers to affix a heart "check mark" signifying endorsement by the AHA as conforming to some basic "heart healthy" requirements.

Odd thing: The list of breakfast cereals on the check mark program has shrunk dramatically. When I last posted about this, there were around 50-some breakfast cereals, from Cocoa Puffs to Frosted Mini Wheats. Now, the list has been trimmed down to 17:

Berry Burst Cheerios-Triple Berry
Cheerios Crunch
Honey Nut Cheerios
Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal
Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Flakes & Wild Blueberry Clusters
Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal
Multi Grain Cheerios
Oatmeal Crisp Crunchy Almond
Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin
Quaker Cinnamon Life
Quaker Heart Health
Quaker Life
Quaker Life Maple & Brown Sugar
Quaker Oat Bran
Quaker Oatmeal Squares - Brown Sugar
Quaker Oatmeal Squares - Cinnamon

According to sales material targeted to food manufacturers, the American Heart Association boasts that "The American Heart Association’s heart-check mark is the most recognized and trusted food icon today . . . Eighty-three percent of consumers are aware of the heart-check mark. Sixty-six percent of primary grocery shoppers say the heart-check mark has a strong/moderate influence on their choices when shopping."

So, is Cocoa Puffs no longer heart healthy?

I suspect that agencies like the AHA, the USDA, the American Diabetes Association as starting to understand that they have blundered big time by pushing low-fat, having contributed to the nationwide epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and that it is time to quietly start backpedaling.

While it's a step in the right direction, judging from the above list of breakfast cereal "survivors" of the check mark program, the criteria may have been tightened . . . but not that much.

Comments (17) -

  • Anne

    4/29/2010 3:50:05 AM |

    One step forward, two steps back.

    Chocolate Cheerios are good for the heart. If you don't believe this go here

  • Anonymous

    4/29/2010 6:09:16 AM |

    I had a bowl of bran flakes and checked my blood sugar. 141. Yikes!

  • Myron

    4/29/2010 7:49:24 AM |

    I have been down on wheat family of grains for a long time, but for other reasons than the health consequences tied to peak blood sugar elevations [and consequent hypoglycemic phases].  I'm down on the inflammatory oils and the allergy aspects.

    Have you investigated HEMP SEED?  It is high in protein and packed with good oils.   How does it rate with your diet suggestions?    Would it be good to run some trials?

  • Bryan Rankin

    4/29/2010 3:20:34 PM |

    "they have blundered big time by pushing low-fat ... it is time to quietly start backpedaling."

    They're backpedaling all right, but it's not because they are abandoning the low fat message.  The average consumer is not quite ignorant enough to believe Cocoa Puffs are healthy, and they don't want that 60% that are affected by their check mark to drop.

  • Anonymous

    4/29/2010 9:11:08 PM |

    Just got an AHA solicitation in the mail this week.  Like so many other organizations, they do not act in the best interest of the people they claim to serve.  My money and time are better spent pursuing the more promising preventative practices such as those promoted by TYP.

  • whatsonthemenu

    4/29/2010 11:02:29 PM |

    A colleague eats a Quaker oatmeal square for breakfast every morning.  Among the ingredients listed on the label is partially hydrogenated soybean oil, not enough, apparently, to bump the transfat content above .5 grams, so the nutrition label lists 0 grams of transfat.  No amount of transfat is healthy, yet this product has the AHA seal of approval. I used to eat granola bars when I thought they were healthy.  I read labels and noticed that quite a few use partially hydrogenated oils, including brands that boast of high fiber or Omega 3 content.

  • Lori Miller

    4/30/2010 12:19:48 AM |

    Maybe the people at Cocoa Puffs stopped writing checks. Who needs an endorsement when your product contains wheat, sugar and chocolate and is marketed to kids in an I-want-to-be-my-child's-friend mileau?

  • Larry

    4/30/2010 11:29:12 PM |

    As if these cereals aren't bad enough...
    KFC is selling their fried chicken in Pink "Buckets for the Cure" for Breast Cancer fund raising.
    It left me speechless.
    I've said it before... we're on our own.

  • Lynn M.

    5/1/2010 3:35:49 AM |

    The site Ted linked to ( has a list of Top 10 Cereals by Nutrition Score.  None of those top 10 are on the AHA list of heart-healthy cereals.

  • Venkat

    5/2/2010 11:17:53 PM |

    Dr Davis,

    This question is off the topic. I read your book Track your plaque a month back and had been to AZ heart institute and got my plaque measured.

    I am a Type 2 Diabetic for the past 11 years and am actively low carbing (<30g carbs per day) and 100% grain avoiding since May 2008.

    My calcium score was 0.

    But the staff was not able to say whether the machine they used was EBT/MDCT. They said it is newer than EBT. The machine had GE 64 slice VCT printed on it. Can you confirm if this is the one you are asking people to have it calcium scored?

    I live in Phoenix, AZ and had been to AZ Heart Institute (got the information from "Track your plaque" book).

    Please let me know if I got calcium score done in a machine in which I am supposed to do.

    Thanks for all the help.



  • Ned Kock

    5/3/2010 9:13:38 PM |

    > I had a bowl of bran flakes and checked my blood sugar. 141. Yikes

    It is a great idea to check blood glucose levels after meals, just bear in mind that they can vary rather erratically:

  • Anonymous

    5/4/2010 9:50:41 PM |

    Oats, oats, oats is the common thread of the "survivors." Either the oat industry is doing an excellent coordinated marketing attack or there is something to the claim that oats are good for cardiovascular health.

  • Anonymous

    5/6/2010 2:36:59 AM |

    I don't eat cereal of any kind. Have no desire to. A much healthier choice altogether would be cottage cheese with fruit or just fruit, scrambled eggs or even bacon cooked extra crispy.

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