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Let us say a final goodbye to the decade just ended. Let us bury the myth of oat bran.Oat bran was an unassuming commodity; for decades it was largely ignored. Who would have predicted then that oat bran would one day be too much praised?

But medical studies elevated the humble grain to superstar status. On breakfast tables across America it glistened with low-fat milk, low-cal margarine and promise - the promise of good health.

Oat bran could reduce cholesterol, the studies said. The public took it from there. And the legend grew.

A mere daily dose could offset untold gluttony. The bane of the morning jogger, the enemy of the aerobics dancer, artery-fouling cholesterol was no longer to be feared.

Oat bran would undermine its ill effects. Oat bran could slay the beast.

Oat bran soaked up the praise. Its name was on the lips of marketing executives, its virtues touted on the fronts of cereal boxes. It was the antidote to bad diet that the country had waited for.

But there were doubters. Miracle foods are no substitute for common sense, they bellowed. Oat bran won't deliver immortality, they whined. Oat bran is a fraud.

Alas for poor oat bran, the protests held a grain of truth. How could a simple food live up to such exaggerated promise? A decade of excessive expectations - a BMW in every garage, sushi on every table, a health spa in every neighborhood - corrupted even the most unassuming commodity.

Now a study has turned against oat bran. It doesn't cut cholesterol, researchers say, it merely displaces cholesterol. Eating oat bran can reduce cholesterol levels, but not because of any magical properties. Oat bran simply takes up stomach space that might have been devoted to less healthy cuisine.

Armed with that logical explanation, let us hope we have entered a decade of common sense. So long to guilt-tinged bran commercials with their sunrises, tennis racquets and toothy smiles. So long to the myth of oat bran and to the decade of unrealistic expectations that created it.

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