Benecol smart chews - produced by McNeil Nutritionals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson - are being marketed as an easy, convenient and tasty way to lower cholesterol levels.
They work to reduce cholesterol levels through plant sterol esters - each chew contains 0.85g of plant stanol esters and the company recommends that the consumer takes two to four chews per day with meals, along with a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, for best results.
Chewy vitamins have been around for the last 50 years or more and have found favor with adults who don't like or find it difficult to swallow pills. Benecol's chews will be available in two flavors, namely chocolate and caramel.
In 2000 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an interim final rule authorizing a health claim for plant sterol esters, and recently the FDA indicated that the claim may be applied to free sterols.
Foods containing at least 0.65 g per serving of plant sterol esters (0.4 grams free sterol equivalent), eaten twice a day with meals for a daily intake of at least 1.3g (0.8 grams free sterol equivalent), as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL to maintain desirable cholesterol levels, yet the American Heart Association estimates that 104.7 million American adults have total blood cholesterol values of 200 mg/dL and higher.