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Over-Fortified Cereals Risky for Kids

Children who eat fortified cereals and snack bars are at risk for consuming potentially dangerous levels of niacin, vitamin A, and zinc, according to a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). They reviewed more than 1500 breakfast cereals and 1000 snack bars. They found 115 cereals that are fortified with more than 30 percent of the adult recommended daily amounts (RDA) for niacin, vitamin A, or zinc per serving; and 30 snack bars that are fortified with more than 50 percent of the RDA. Examples include General Mills Total Raisin Bran and Wheaties Fuel, and Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies, Balance Bars and Krave.

Manufacturers fortify foods with vitamins and minerals to make you think that their products will promote good health. No data show that North Americans, who eat too much food anyway, need additional amounts of any of these vitamins. Some studies even show that people who take vitamin pills have a higher risk for heart attacks and certain cancers. See Vitamin pills do not protect heart or brain; Get vitamins from food, not pills.

But while most vitamin-takers use the recommended dose of one multi-vitamin pill a day, there is no portion control on cereals or snack bars. The serving size for cereals is typically one cup, and many children eat far more than that. They may eat several snack bars as well. This means they may be taking in the equivalent of several multi-vitamin pills each day. Excessive amounts of:
• vitamin A can cause osteoporosis and loss of hair, and when given to pregnant women can cause abnormal babies;
• niacin can cause skin rashes;
• zinc can impair copper absorption, damage red and white blood cells and impair immune function.

Most Fortified Foods Also Contain Too Much Sugar
EWG also showed that eating a bowl of the typical sugared cereal daily provides 10 pounds of sugar per year. High sugar cereals include Honey Smacks, Golden Puffs, Golden Crisp, and granolas. Look for cereals that contain no added sugars, and serve them with fruit for sweetness if you wish. The typical snack bar is high in sugar and no more healthful than a candy bar. They should be regarded as treats, not as meal substitutes. See How to Pick a Breakfast Cereal.

July 6th, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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