In July 2012, Health Canada released its position on whether evidence existed to support two new health claims.

Health claims highlight a product’s nutritional benefits. They include disease risk reduction claims, which link food, or a component of a food product, to reducing the risk of developing a diet-related disease (e.g., osteoporosis, cancer, etc.) as part of a total diet. Disease risk reduction claims must be pre-approved by Health Canada, and companies wishing to make the claims must meet the compositional requirements and use wording prescribed by Health Canada.

  1. Whole Grains and Coronary Heart Disease Reduction

Health Canada concluded that the clinical trial and prospective cohort studies to date are not sufficient to support a claim linking whole grains and coronary heart disease risk reduction claim in Canada. Health Canada is of the view that the prospective cohort studies were of limited applicability to the Canadian population. For example, many of the studies used specific population samples (e.g., male health professionals only, Seventh Day Adventists only, rural-dwelling Swedish males).

Though an effect of whole grains on total and LDL cholesterol was observed when clinical trial results were pooled, the effect was attributable to the combination of trials judged to be poor quality and trials that tested grain products high in beta-glucan fibre. The cholesterol-lowering caused by grains high in beta-glucan cannot be generalized to wheat grain products. Thus, a whole grain and coronary heart disease health claim would be misleading if applied to grains not high in beta-glucan fibre.

  1. Barley Products and Cholesterol Lowering

In 2010, Health Canada approved claims linking oat products high in beta-glucan fibre to the lowering of cholesterol. Last month, after reviewing relevant clinical studies, Health Canada concluded that similar cholesterol lowering claims can be made for another grain product high in beta-glucan fibre, namely barley.

The following is an example of a claim using the prescribed wording:

X ml (Y cups) of Brand A cooked pearled barley provides Z% of the daily amount of the fibre shown to help lower cholesterol.

“Daily amount” is 3 grams of barley beta-glucan. The percentage of daily amount of barley beta-glucan should be expressed to the nearest multiple of 5%.

The following additional statements are also permitted but must be adjacent to the above statement and in letters up to twice the size and prominence as the above statement:

  1. “Barley fibre helps reduce/lower cholesterol”
  2. “High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease”
  3. “Barley fibre helps reduce/lower cholesterol, (which is) a risk factor for heart disease”  

This health claim can only be made where the food product meets compositional requirements, including that it contain at least 1 gram of beta-glucan from barley grain products per reference amount and per serving of stated size. A detailed list of the requirements can be found here: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/claims-reclam/assess-evalu/barley-orge-eng.php.