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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

March 1, 2006 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Eat Two Cookies a Day; Lower Your Cholesterol

Eureka! We have finally found the magic bullet. Now we can lower our cholesterol by eating two cookies every day.

Forget that nonsense about devouring your broccoli and all of those servings of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. That's too complicated. The best way to begin is to take the first step in the "Right Direction."

That first step means eating two wonder cookies from a new company called RD Foods. RD Foods touts their new baking sensation Right Direction Cookies as "Right Food, Right Choice, Right Direction."

Right Direction Cookies is the creation of Wendy Miller and Norman Null, both registered dieticians. Miller earned a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Besides being a registered dietician, Null operates a construction company in New Jersey. Null detoured slightly from the construction business when he discovered he was a diabetic. That discovery motivated him to focus on his own health and to help others by becoming a dietician. He still finds time to operate his construction business.

After 18 months of experimentation in Miller's kitchen, the two RD's were satisfied with their miraculous Right Direction Chocolate Chip Cookie that would lower cholesterol with plant sterols and fiber.

Dieticians Sample Cookies
"Our cookie finally looked like a chocolate chip cookie and tasted like a chocolate chip cookie. We even passed the test with Wendy's son, so it was time to have other dieticians take a bite, " said Null. The two brought hundreds of cookies to conferences across the United States for sampling and evaluation by other dieticians.

"Dieticians and doctors are giving patients with high-cholesterol permission, actually requesting, that they eat two Right Direction Chocolate Chip Cookies a day to improve their health and lower their cholesterol," says Miller. "One physician told us that he tells his patients with high cholesterol to 'take two and call me in the morning.'"

The dietician duo is currently in the kitchen experimenting with new flavors to add to their cookie product line.

The Nutrition Facts label printed on the Right Direction Cookies website makes one wonder how two dieticians, one of them a diabetic, could create a cookie that masquerades as a health promoter. One cookie that weighs 40 grams, or approximately 1.5 ounces, contains 13 grams of sugar. In plain terms almost one third of that cookie is sugar. Remember, one of those dieticians is a diabetic. Hopefully, he didn't sample all the cookies leading up to the final choice.

Doctors Dean Ornish and John McDougall would become hysterical when they discovered that this miracle cookie with 160 calories contained 60 calories from fat. That translates into 38% fat. Both doctors have had success in reversing heart disease by placing patients on diets with less than 10% calories from fat.

Not only would the doctors be appalled by the fat content in the cookies, but other Americans would also question the health benefits of a cookie that contained 6 grams of fat, 2 grams saturated, and .5 grams of trans fat. According to RDA guidelines, a person on a 2000-calorie a day diet should have less than 20 grams of saturated fat daily. A two-cookie snack provides one-fifth of that fat.

Food Giants Shun Trans Fats
Just when food giants like Kraft, Kelloggs, and Nabisco are trying to remove artery-clogging trans fats from their products, Right Direction moves in the Wrong Direction with a cookie containing trans fat from partially hydrogenated soybean oil. One gram of trans fat may not sound like much, but when added to the saturated fat in the cookies, it can create havoc in your arteries. For people attempting to lower their cholesterol, why give them two cookies that contain 20 mg of cholesterol. Besides, those two cookies add up to 320 calories.

"Avoiding trans fatty acids will lower the bad form of cholesterol or LDL," says Dr. Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Also, it can raise the good forms of blood cholesterol, so you get several benefits by avoiding trans fatty acids."

According to Willet trans fats raise LDL cholesterol while lowering good HDL cholesterol. "They're worse than anything else in the food supply with regard to blood lipids," he adds.

The two ingredients in the cookie that claim to lower cholesterol are plant sterols and soluble fiber. Plant sterols are present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, and vegetable oils and have been found to reduce the absorption of dietary cholesterol.

The Food and Drug Administration permits this health claim on products containing plant sterols:

    "Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a total intake of at least 1.3 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."

According to Miller and Null, two Right Direction Chocolate Chip Cookies supply 2.6 grams of plant sterols. "On average," they say, "Adults consume 0.2 to 0.4 grams of plant sterols per day versus the recommended 2 to 3 grams of plant sterols daily to help reduce cholesterol."

The 5 grams of dietary fiber in the cookie, 4 of which are soluble, come mostly from one ingredient: psyllium husk powder. Psyllium husk powder is the principal ingredient of Metamucil, a prominent fiber laxative. RD Foods website contains the following cautionary message that reminds us of the messages at the end of those drug commercials on television:

    Are there any side effects to eating Right Direction Cookies? Any medical interactions?
    Psyllium may reduce or delay the absorption of certain medications including antidepressants, diabetes and cardiovascular medications. It is recommended that medications be taken at least one hour before or between two and four hours after taking psyllium.

Instead of the cookie snack with psyllium, a health-savvy individual could make a healthy start to the day with a filling cup of cooked old-fashioned oats that would deliver 4 grams of fiber with half the fat and only 1 gram of sugar. Other alternatives could focus on cooked whole-grain rye or whole-wheat cereals with an even higher fiber content. The oatmeal, rye, and wheat cereals are made from natural whole grains, while the cookie contains unbleached white flour lacking in fiber. Even a slice of whole grain bread could deliver 3 to 5 grams of fiber.

Completing the wholesome breakfast with a large, unpeeled apple loaded with 6 grams of fiber would be a saner substitute for the second cookie. But an entrepreneurial dietician can't realize a profit by suggesting a few pieces of fruit instead of two cookies that are priced at one dollar each.

To assist our readers in evaluating Right Direction Cookies, VIP is listing the ingredients as they appear on the package.



Looking at the list, one quickly determines that the cookie is not vegan because of the milkfat and egg. It may not even be vegetarian because of the refined sugar and possibly the sources of the natural and artificial flavor. In spite of the sterols and fiber, many nutritionists would not consider this a healthy snack. Null and Miller could have developed a healthier, cholesterol-free alternative by using whole grain flour and substituting flaxseed meal or egg replacer for the egg. They could have easily created a high-fiber cookie without psyllium.

Researchers Study Right Direction Cookies
Right Direction Cookies gained national prominence with the announcement of study results presented at the 3rd Annual Scripps Integrative Medicine Conference of Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Update in La Jolla, California, January 21, 2005.

The double blind, placebo-controlled study subjected 33 high-cholesterol patients to "treatment" with Right Direction Cookies for four weeks or a placebo cookie. "This cross-over study allowed patients a four week wash out period before switching cookie therapies for an additional four weeks. Patients continued their normal diet and exercise programs during the study period."

According to RD Foods (Right Direction Foods), "Study results showed a significant drop in total cholesterol from 217 mg/dL to 203 mg/dL and in LDL cholesterol from 133 mg/dL to 120 mg/dL with Right Direction Cookies vs. placebo."

"Right Direction Cookies, with soluble fiber and plant sterols, helped study participants significantly lower their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and fasting glucose levels without any weight gain," said Jay Udani, MD, lead author of the study and Medical Director of Medicus Research. "The small but statistically significant reduction in the fasting glucose level is noteworthy as all of the patients in the study were non-diabetic."

It doesn't take much brainpower to realize that a study of 33 people eating chocolate chip cookies does not yield results that can be used to chart a nutritional course for an entire population. The major flaw was to ignore what else the participants ate and their general lifestyles. Look out, America! We may experience a whole raft of studies like this one where a junk food delivery system is used to bring "healthy" supplements to the public.

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program of the National Institute of Health, a cholesterol reading over 200 is "Borderline High." An LDL Cholesterol Level less than 100 mg/dL is considered "Optimal." A 100 to 129 mg/dL reading is labeled "Near Optimal/above optimal." The "Borderline high" category ranges from 130 to 159 mg/dL.

Dr. Esselstyn Disagrees on Cholesterol Numbers
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic believes these numbers are too high. In his longest running study to arrest and reverse heart disease he recommends a desirable total cholesterol level under 150 and an LDL reading less than 80. For more information about his study see http://www.heartattackproof.com/.

Many health experts believe that cholesterol readings over 200 are too high for the general population. Bringing the level from 217 down to 203 for 33 people doesn't sound like a panacea. It's more like using a band-aid to try to stop the bleeding in a serious wound. This study may help to sell cookies but can't be considered serious science.

Norman Null is totally misguided when he says, "The happy ending to this sweet story will be when Right Direction Cookies are widely known, accepted and trusted by patients and consumers, as well as the medical community, as not only an 'alternative' method to lower cholesterol, but as a healthy way to get needed nutrients into patients' diets and lifestyles."

If two cookies bring good health, perhaps four cookies, or even eight cookies would make you "heart-healthy" with all the nutrients you need. Instead of facing up to changing your lifestyle, gorging on cookies is an easy way to solve your health problems. Why not order a package of 14 for $13.99?

VIP believes Right Direction Cookies are a step in the Wrong Direction. Instead of sugary, refined, highly processed foods, registered dieticians should be promoting a plant-based diet of whole foods that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In studies like the Portfolio Diet, this food regimen has been shown to provide an abundance of fiber and plant sterols to lower cholesterol naturally. The bonus may also be weight loss.

Unfortunately, dieticians can't make a ton of money recommending high fiber, natural foods. The real money flows into their bank account by peddling a pseudo-cholesterol pill in the form of a manufactured so-called "healthy" cookie. Shame on Miller, Null, and Udani for deluding the American public!

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