Out-of-the-box approach to breakfast champions heart health

A New York cardiologist views her appearance on a cereal box as a way to promote women's cardiac health.

By Damon Adams — Posted Dec. 6, 2004

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At this point in her career, Nieca Goldberg, MD, does not see herself on the front of a Wheaties box, a place often reserved for the greatest athletes.

"It's a little too late for me to think about becoming an Olympic athlete," joked Dr. Goldberg, a 5-foot-1½-inch cardiologist in New York City.

But winning gold medals and championship rings are not the only way to get on a cereal box. Dr. Goldberg's expertise in heart health is landing her likeness on grocery store shelves and America's breakfast tables.

In January 2005, Dr. Goldberg will appear on several million boxes of Wheat Chex and Multi-Bran Chex cereals. Her photo on the cover of her book, Women Are Not Small Men: Life-Saving Strategies for Preventing and Healing Heart Disease in Women, will be featured on the back of the cereal boxes. Tips about physical activity and proper diet also will be included.

"I happen to eat cereal and happen to read cereal boxes. I read everything in front of me," said Dr. Goldberg, chief of women's cardiac care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

She hopes other women share the breakfast-reading habit.

"We have to think outside the box of how we're going to reach women. Being on the table the first thing in the morning will give women something to think about and, hopefully, they will take it to heart," said Dr. Goldberg, a board member of the American Heart Assn.'s New York chapter and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

"I like to think I champion this whole issue of women's heart health," she said.

Minnesota-based General Mills, which makes Chex, isn't sure if Dr. Goldberg is the only physician featured on a cereal box in its 80-year history, spokesman Tom Johnson said. But Johnson doesn't recall a doctor on a box in recent years.

"She has a very wonderful, comprehensive message about how a person can go about taking care of their own heart health," said Johnson, adding that the company will make all of its cereals with whole grain as a nutrition boost. "We certainly think doctors are champions and deserve a spot on the box."

Dr. Goldberg joins an elite group on General Mills' cereals that includes athletes Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Lance Armstrong.

"It's really good company," Johnson said. "She is a great communicator and connects with people in a very heart-warming way."

Dr. Goldberg got her shot after General Mills heard about her book and invited the physician to speak to the company about women and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Goldberg said General Mills then asked her about appearing on a cereal box. She thought it would be a good way to promote heart health to women.

The American Heart Assn. believes the cereal boxes are a unique approach to reach people with heart health information.

"This is a great way to educate the public," said Alice Jacobs, MD, association president.

Dr. Goldberg said she is not getting paid to endorse the cereals, although General Mills covers travel expenses.

"It's great that I'm going to be able to reach women beyond the ones I see in my office."

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