§ Mr. Gareth Wardell
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he has any plans to launch a national education programme, similar to those in the United States, relating to consumer awareness of cholesterol levels;
(2) what guidance his Department gives on the issue of whether, independently of lowering dietary fat intake, increased consumption of oat bran can reduce blood cholesterol; and if he will make a statement;
(3) what information his Department holds on a causal link between high blood cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease;
(4) if he has evaluated the relative cost-effectiveness of (a) treatment and (b) public health programmes designed to lower blood cholesterol.
§ Mr. Dorrell
The Standing Medical Advisory Committee reported last year on the cost-effectiveness of opportunistic cholesterol testing, a copy of which is available in the Library. Annex I to the report details evidence from a large number of studies showinga direct and consistent association between blood cholesterol levels and the incidence of coronary heart disease. This association has all the characteristics of a causal relationship".
Because the committee identified divergent medical opinion in this area, it was decided to issue the report for widespread consultation. A large number of responses has been received and these are now being analysed. We expect to be in a position to reach conclusions on the findings soon.
Recommendations in the report have implications for a national education programme. In considering the results of the consultation exercise we will have regard to the need for public education specifically about cholesterol levels.283W
The Government already give advice on healthy eating which encourages the adoption of a balanced overall diet. Oat bran, like any other food, can form part of a healthy diet. There is insufficient evidence at present to give specific advice about the role of oat bran in reducing blood cholesterol.