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Coca-Cola reports Q1 earnings

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA The Coca-Cola Co. reported a 3% drop in net income, compared with the year-prior period.

Coca-Cola’s net income was approximately $7.17 million, versus nearly $7.38 million during the first quarter 2008. Earnings per share was down 9% to 58 cents per share, from 65 cents per share for the first quarter ended March 28, 2008.

Operating income for the first quarter 2009 decreased 1% on a reported basis, versus the first quarter of 2008. Items impacting comparability reduced first-quarter operating income by $92 million in 2009, and by $85 million in 2008. After considering these items, operating income was even. Excluding the impact of currency, operating income increased 17%, exceeding the company’s currency neutral long-term profit target.

During the quarter, Latin America continued with strong unit case volume growth of 5%, led by a 6% increase in Mexico and a 4% increase in Brazil, as well as continued volume and value share gains in both sparkling and still beverages. Coca-Cola recently launched its “Open Happiness” campaign geared toward the Spanish-speaking community.

Globally, the company gained volume and value share in nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverages for the seventh consecutive quarter, while still beverage unit case volume increased 9% in the quarter, led by strong growth across the portfolio, including juices and juice drinks, sports drinks, teas and water brands. Additionally, international still beverage unit case volume increased 13% in the quarter.

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Blueberries may help reduce belly fat, diabetes risk

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK A new University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study suggested that a blueberry-enriched diet can reduce belly fat and diabetes risk.

The new research, presented April 19 at the Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans, gives tantalizing clues to the potential of blueberries in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. The effect is thought to be due to the high level of phytochemicals – naturally occurring antioxidants – that blueberries contain.

The researchers studied the effect of blueberries (freeze dried blueberries crushed into a powder) that were mixed into the rat diet, as part of either a low- or high-fat diet. They performed many comparisons between the rats consuming the test diets and the control rats receiving no blueberry powder. All the rats were from a research breed that is prone to being severely overweight.

In all, after 90 days, the rats that received the blueberry-enriched powder, measured as 2% of their diet, had less abdominal fat, lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, and improved fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity, which are measures of how well the body processes glucose for energy.

The rats in the study were similar to Americans who suffer fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome as a result of high-fat diets and obesity. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that include too much fat around the waist, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, high triglycerides, and together these conditions increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

While regular blueberry intake reduced these risks for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, the health benefits were even better when combined with a low-fat diet.

“Some measurements were changed by blueberry even if the rats were on a high fat diet,” says E. Mitchell Seymour, M.S., lead researcher and manager of the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory. “We found by looking at fat muscle tissue, that blueberry intake affected genes related to fat-burning and storage. Looking at muscle tissue, we saw altered genes related to glucose uptake.”

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Clinical study shows Cheerios can help reduce cholesterol by 10% in one month

BY Allison Cerra

NEW ORLEANS Research presented Monday at the Experimental Biology Meeting revealed Cheerios can help lower cholesterol by 10% in one month.

The study, which was conducted and presented by Provident Clinical Research, found that eating two 1.5-cup servings of Cheerios daily, as part of a reduced-calorie diet low in fat, lowered LDL or “bad” cholesterol about 10% in one month. Cheerios is the only leading ready-to-eat cereal clinically proven to lower cholesterol.

“We monitored the diets of study participants for 12 weeks, and a clinical evaluation of their cholesterol levels showed coupling Cheerios with a reduced calorie diet significantly helps lower LDL cholesterol levels,” said Kevin C. Maki, Ph.D. of Provident Clinical Research. “We were impressed with how effectively eating Cheerios daily as part of a reduced calorie diet lowered bad cholesterol. These are simple changes that are easy for most people to make.”

The study also showed eating Cheerios as part of a reduced-calorie diet low in fat lowers bad cholesterol twice as much in 12 weeks than a reduced calorie diet low in fat without Cheerios. In addition to the cholesterol-lowering benefits, the study found that eating Cheerios as part of a reduced calorie diet lowered weight by five pounds and shrank waists by three centimeters (1.2 inches) in 12 weeks, both of which can help reduce risk for heart disease.

“Cheerios always has been good for you, and this study is further proof that improving heart health can be a reality with a few simple steps, like eating Cheerios daily and cutting calories,” said Thierry Ibri, Marketing Director, Cheerios. “Now when people enjoy the No. 1 cereal in America they can feel confident they are taking a positive step towards getting healthier by helping to lower their cholesterol.”

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 98.6 million adults in the United States have total blood cholesterol levels of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or above, which is considered high risk since cholesterol plays a part in serious health problems including heart attack, stroke and heart disease.

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