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Coca-Cola is branching into another new beverage category, this time with a cholesterol-reducing line of Minute Maid orange juice.
The product, Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise, will start rolling out at the end of the month.
Heart Wise will contain plant sterols, an additive that has been used in brands of cholesterol-busting margarine and salad dressing.
Using plant sterols in an orange juice is new, however, and it reflects Coke's ongoing move to sell more healthy --- or "functional" --- drinks.
Don Knauss, president of Coke North America's retail division, revealed plans for Heart Wise in an interview with the trade publication Beverage Digest.
Coke spokesman Ray Crockett declined to discuss additional details, such as the number of calories in the new drink.
Plant sterols have been tested in clinical trials and will reduce cholesterol by about 10 percent with consistent usage. Benocol, a margarine with the ingredient, is sold as a cholesterol reducer.
Chris Rosenbloom, associate dean of Georgia State University's College of Health and Human Sciences, said sterols occur naturally in plants but typically aren't consumed. They can be obtained from pine trees, for example.
Rachel Brandeis, a dietitian at Northside Hospital and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said plant sterols help reduce a person's bad cholesterol.
But they are of limited use. Brandeis said the ingredient is "really for people who have moderately elevated cholesterol," not those with high cholesterol.
Plus, she said, you need to make sure you aren't consuming too many calories to get the benefits of the additive.
Knauss said consumers would have to drink two 8-ounce servings a day of Heart Wise orange juice, which must stay refrigerated.
Coke has made other forays into selling good-for-you beverages, such as a Minute Maid orange juice with extra vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc.
Heart Wise, however, is something new.
"This is cutting-edge innovation, not just a new flavor, and is a direction that makes huge sense," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution