Corazonas Oatmeal Squares – Heart Healthy or Marketing Hype?

“Proven to Lower Cholesterol” is a mighty strong claim. But Corazonas, a brand built around heart health, places this health claim front and center.

How can one product, such as this oatmeal square, help to reduce cholesterol?

What you need to know:

According to Corazonas’s website (and NOT on the product package) the cholesterol reducing claim is approved by the FDA:

*FDA health claim: Foods containing at least 0.4g per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of Corazonas supplies between 0.4g and 0.8g of plant sterols. See nutrition facts panel for fat content.

OK – so you need to eat well all around for this cholesterol lowering effect to kick in. But what about the 2.5 teaspoons of added sugar (second and third ingredients in the list below). Do they contribute to heart health?

Here is the ingredient list:

Whole rolled oats, brown rice syrup, cane syrup, date puree, peanuts, expeller pressed sunflower oil, maltodextrin, peanut butter (peanuts, salt), plum puree, whey protein isolate, vegetable glycerin, peanut flour, oat flour, plant sterols, natural flavors, calcium carbonate, salt, sot lecithin, baking soda. Vitamin blend: (vitamin c [ascorbic acid], vitamin e [d-alpha tocopheryl acetate], vitamin a [palmitate], niacinamide, maltodextrin, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin d3, pyridoxine HCL, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, vitamin b12, folic acid). Contains peanut, soy, milk.

Note the plant sterols or phytosterols. These are naturally found in plant oils. In studies where the phytosterols were extracted from plants and turned into supplements, they have been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestines. But other studies showed opposite effects.

As with all compounds found in nature, science still does not have a full grasp on all the interactions between various chemicals in a whole food as compared to a single vitamin or mineral. That’s why you should be very wary of claims that a single nutrient found in a processed food product can do wonders for you. Your best bet is to get your sterols from real food – fruit and vegetables.

Bars such as this, which are a collection of sugar ingredients, protein isolates, and a sprinkling of vitamin blend are the exact opposite of what you need. And yet, this Corazonas is still one of the better bars out there, because it does not use partially hydrogenated oils, and includes peanuts and dates.

What to do at the supermarket:

When choosing bars, remember that they are closer to snack bar than health food. Choose bars made with real fruit and nuts, and short ingredient lists.

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  • http://thebestkitchen.org/breville-smart-oven-bov800xl-convection-toaster-oven-review/ Jen

    I read your report and I think this is a marketing hype. I prefer to eat real fruit than this. Just my opinion.

  • http://www.foodieformerlyfat.com Foodie, Formerly Fat

    If you need an on the go “bar” style snack, I say, make your own. It’s easier than you’d think. I, just today, posted a recipe for homemade granola bars with oats, raisins, dates, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and a bunch of other yummy and nutritious stuff in them. They are a full meal replacement and have enough healthy carbs, fats, and protein to sustain an active person for hours. In fact, I made this last batch to have something healthy between work and going to the gym and it sustains me through a one hour intensive interval training workout. Best part, no artificial ingredients, chemicals, or preservatives; just simple healthy goodness.

    • Soozcal

      Where can I find your recipe ?

  • http://twitter.com/wetwolf Wet Wolf

    Sorry, I’m not “buyin’” it.

    A bowl of old fashioned Quaker oats is vastly superior.

    • Americangirl1964

      But not as tasty! Why not have a variety?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5BTYULDFOT6KILQSNJTQFSNBPM Ken Berry

    We should ask this question of every “healthy” food promoted by the large corporations. Healthy food grows on trees and plants, it is very rarely found in Cardboard Boxes!

  • Anonymous

    What’s wrong with whey isolate?

    Unlike protein from whole food, isolate digests quicker; amino acids reach muscles faster and affect metabolic processes quicker. Both isolate and BCAA have been shown to be an excellent post-workout recovery due to their relatively fast-digesting nature.

    While it’s probably not necessary for someone who doesn’t engage in resistance training to consume whey isolate, I don’t see any downsides to replacing whole food protein with it.

    Could you please explain?

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy – The Frugal dietitian

    Interesting review and concerns regarding sterols on Medscape.com (need to register for free for access) Title is: Controversial Role of Plant Sterol Esters in the Management of Hypercholesterolaemia
    “In fact, there is evidence that elevated levels of plant sterols are associated with an increased cardiovascular risk.”

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy – The Frugal dietitian

    Also plant sterols, naturally found in foods, are very poorly absorbed – about 1%.

  • Ramona

    Dear Hemi, this is Ramona Cappello and I’m the founder of Corazonas. I came across your post and wanted to thank you for writing it, as well as to address some of the concerns brought up by you and some of your readers here. I completely agree consumers should do their due diligence before purchasing any product that makes a health claim, which is why we include the FDA health claim on our packaging and website, and also offer extensive information about the clinical studies showing the efficacy of plant sterols in lowering cholesterol.

    Plant sterols have been tested extensively by Brandeis University and other private studies, and are proven in more than 140 clinical trials to help lower LDL cholesterol. For the FDA to allow any claim, the evidence must be overwhelming, and it certainly is. There are delivery forms for sterols which are more effective, such as our patented process, and some that are less effective, but regardless of the delivery method, sterols have been shown to work. A USDA-supported study last fall also showed that LDL cholesterol is lowered most when plant sterols are consumed in smaller amounts more often throughout the day, rather than in one large amount each day. (http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100921.htm).

    I created Corazonas after losing my father and both grandfathers to heart disease, and wanted to make foods that people would not only enjoy eating but that really worked. I certainly believe exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetable is important, however one would have to consume 14 pounds of fruits and vegetables to achieve the level of plant sterols found in just one of our Oatmeal Squares. It is extremely difficult for anyone to consume that quantity of fruits and vegetables daily, and Corazonas makes accessing these powerful cholesterol-lowering ingredients convenient for everyone.

    We offer a 28 day challenge (http://www.corazonas.com/28-days-to-proof) anyone can take to see for themselves if our products work, and many of our loyal customers have told us they’ve seen their cholesterol numbers go down. In addition, our Oatmeal Squares are made to deliver 6 grams of protein, 5-6 grams of fiber and 13-16 grams for whole grains (depending upon the flavor) so there is also well rounded solid nutrition for those on the go. I’m happy to personally answer any other questions or concerns you and your readers have. Please feel free to email me at info@corazonas.com. Thank you again for the post!

    Best in health,

    Ramona Cappello

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Hi Ramona,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply and link to the studies.
      Sorry to hear of the loss of your family members to heart disease.
      And I have no doubt about your good intentions in creating Corazonas.

      But it’s hard to beat what nature has provided us. To say that someone needs to eat 14 lbs of produce to get the same amount of sterols in a bar is a bit misleading. If someone is eating lots of fruits and vegetables regularly, the exact amount of sterols is not going to matter.

      You can’t extract one nutrient from veggies, place it in a processed food – out of context – and think you will solve a cholesterol condition. If you can, then it’s called a drug, not a food.

      We probably won’t agree on this matter.

      For what it’s worth, the peanut bar is quite tasty, not as sweet as some of the others.

    • Mitchellvl

      Thanks for  your research and snacks Ramona. Don’t let these guys get you down–phytosterols work! Keep up the good work. V Mitchell Pittsburgh

  • Eterrys

    The body can use plant sterols in place of cholesterol. However when this happens in red blood cells, their wall structure becomes more rigid.

    • moop

      What does that mean please?

  • Carol

    FDA allows the health claim about plant sterols. But I believe the product used to say “proven to lower cholesterol” (rather than “help lower cholesterol”), which was not allowed. FDA requires that certain statements accompany health claims, including stating that a food “may” or “might” reduce “risk” of coronary heart disease, rather than claiming that it “does” (e.g., “proven to…”), which would trigger testing/labeling it as a drug. I’m guessing they got heat for that and put in the “help”. It’s interesting, also, that their tortilla chip line used to contain oatmeal, which is a real food known to help lower cholesterol (mainly because of the soluble fiber… also present in many other foods — apples, barley, etc.). Seems strange they would trade that in for Cargill-produced sterols.

  • Azgreenmountainpines

    My kids and I like the Lara bars. Hopefully they are good for us. They are date paste, different nuts like cashews, and fruit depending on the flavor.

  • Mitchellvl

    I have taken/eaten foods with added phyosterols specifically to lower my total cholesterol and ldl cholesterol for awhile. Believe me, they work. I can’t speak for everyone, but my total cholesterol dropped to below 200 (from 240) and my ldl from 140 to 90, in less than 3 months. I had been exercising and following a diet, but noticed very little change in my cholesterol, until I added phytosterols. Also, being human, I enjoy snacks–how wonderful to have a snack with added phytosterols! And, since they cost a bit more, and I know how much I need to consume a day–I am not over-eating them!!! Seems like a good thing to me. Corowise recommended this product–I don’t think they would associate their name with a ‘bogus’ product–so I bought them. V Mitchell, Pittsburgh.
    p.s. the biggest problem I have is finding a store that carries them, wo having to purchase online.

  • Ottowash

    We’re like genius toddlers that won’t eat our vegetables, even though we know they got everything we need, so instead we extract only what we think we need out of the vegetables and mix it in with all the junk that tastes good.
    Just take the source, it’ll set you free.

  • joelle

    Ramona, I just wanted to say that my husband and I LOVE your Corozona choc chip oatmeal bars. We have been eating them for over a year. Mostly my husband as he takes it as his morning breakfast replacement. I had high cholesterol and was going to have to start medication if I didn’t get my cholesterol down. I naturally have always had slightly raised levels due to heredity. However I have gained some weight over past three years and wanted to lose 20 pounds to get back to a normal weight. I started eating one corozona a day as it gave me such good levels of what I needed for my daily fiber, protein etc. also they are soooooo tasty that they almost become an addiction. Well with diet and exercise I was able to lose 25 pounds in 3 months. I cannot not say for sure what roll the corozonas played in this but I did have my cholesterol checked last month and not only did I lower my bad cholesterol but raised my good HDL and lower the triglycerides. My Drs. note said CONGRATS your cholesterol is excellent!!!!! Not even in the normal high range. I am in the middle of NORMAL. When I looked back at when I lost the most weight it was the seven days in a row that I ate a Corozona once or twice a day with other healthy choice foods. I saw a drop off of wieght loss the next week when I didn’t eat any at all. Our local Sam’s store does not have them in stock anymore and we are very very disappointed. My husband and I both love them for how great they taste and filling they are. We are very happy with them and will find a way to order them online if we have to. Never have we liked a product this much to look for it outside of the store. So thank you for your products. Best of luck in your future food products.

    Joelle Cortright

  • Bodl

    I’m rather surprised at the author’s somewhat negative view of Corazonas bars. Phytosterols have fairly conclusively been shown to reduce cholesterol if consumed in high enough quantities. Unfortunately, the level of efficacy requires impractical amounts of natural vegetables and legumes to reach. This is one instance where it is wise to supplement your diet with enriched products.