Scientific studies have repeatedly proven that eating oatmeal regularly can help reduce your cholesterol. So, it is not surprising to see Quaker Oats making such health claims.
They say “it’s a unique whole grain food that goes in and actually soaks up excess cholesterol and removes it from your body.” And, referring to the quaker pictured on the package, “your cholesterol trembles just at the sight of him.” [Newsweek ad, October 16, 2006]
How much can you lower your cholesterol? Here’s their chart:
The chart makes it look like the drop is dramatic from week one to week four — about a 75% reduction.
*MOUSE PRINT: In their “representative” sample, cholesterol was only actually reduced from about 209 to 198 — a drop of only 11 points, or about 5%.
How can that be because their chart makes it look like a huge drop? For the answer, you have to go back to high school math. Remember when the teacher said you always have to start the y axis (the left side going up) at zero on any chart or you will give people an erroneous impression? Well, you have just been skewed by Quaker.
Creating a chart that does start at zero would look like this:
In this chart, one can clearly see the actual point drop in overall cholesterol is rather small. That is not to say that dropping 11 points is bad. Lowering your cholesterol is a good thing.
What isn’t good is giving the casual reader a misimpression of the effectiveness of eating oatmeal as a means of lowering one’s cholesterol.