July 8, 2014. America’s manufactured foods are loaded with added vitamins and minerals. Everything from our drinks and breads to our snacks and cereals has been altered to give us all the nutrients our bodies need, and then some. A new report shows that these fortified processed foods are actually overdosing exponentially more kids than they are helping. See what the side effects are and which cereals have too much of a good thing.
New report reveals shocking facts about fortified cereals. Image courtesy of ABC15.com.
The report is from the Environmental Working Group and it was published two weeks ago. Basically, researchers found that America’s children are being overdosed on three main vitamins and minerals - vitamin A, zinc, and niacin.
141 over-fortified processed foods
The study looked at two food categories that are notorious for hyping their extra, added vitamins and minerals - breakfast cereals and snack bars. They analyzed 1,550 different cereals and 1,000 different snack bars. The researchers found that 27 popular snack bar brands contain 50% or more of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, zinc and niacin. At the same time, 114 cereal brands had more than 30% of the RDA of those vitamins and minerals. That means that if an American adult eats just two snack bars in one day, everything they eat after that is working against them, maybe even harming them.
For children, the facts are even worse. The researchers found that for kids, eating just one bowl of fortified breakfast cereal would over-expose them to those thee added vitamins/minerals. ‘Because the FDA’s current Daily Values for vitamin A, zinc and niacin are so out of sync with what the Institute of Medicine considers healthy for children, a single serving of some fortified foods can overexpose them to one or more of these nutrients,’ the report warns.
The cereals that over-expose kids to Vitamin A with just one serving are:
The cereals that over-expose kids to zinc and/or niacin with just one serving are:
Describing the above list, the researchers explain, ‘Fortified breakfast cereals are the number one source of added vitamin A, zinc and niacin in children’s diets. A child age 8 or younger eating a single serving of any them would exceed IOM’s (Institute of Medicine) safe level.’ Critics argue that only 1% of kids 2-8 years-old are deficient in zinc and niacin, or roughly 30,000 children. By comparison, an estimated 28 million kids in the same age group are being over-exposed to the two minerals.
The study’s lead author, Renee Sharp, echoed that sentiment explaining, “Heavily fortified foods may sound like a good thing, but it when it comes to children and pregnant women, excessive exposure to high nutrient levels could actually cause short or long-term health problems. Manufacturers use vitamin and mineral fortification to sell their products, adding amounts in excess of what people need and more than might be prudent for young children to consume.”
The side effects
One shocking fact the researchers expose is that the government’s mandatory nutrition information listed on each product’s packaging is both out-of-date and misleading. For starters, they insist the FDA guidelines being used by America’s food manufacturers date back to 1968. Even worse, they were calculated strictly for adults, not children. ‘As a result,’ the report says, ‘some breakfast cereals contain added nutrients in amounts higher than have been deemed safe for children by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.’
What are the symptoms, side effects and dangers of ingesting too much vitamin A, zinc or niacin? According to the study:
Vitamin A: Too much vitamin A can cause toxic symptoms and lead to liver damage, skeletal abnormalities and hair loss. Liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fracture (in older adults), and developmental abnormalities (of the fetus).
Zinc: Too much zinc can impair copper absorption, negatively affect red and white blood cells and impair immune function, anemia.
Niacin: Too much niacin can cause skin reactions (flushing, rash), nausea, liver toxicity.
The publication Mother Jones chimed in on the report, emphasizing America’s outdated nutrition guidelines and labeling laws. ‘Zinc perfectly exemplifies this double whammy,’ the outlet writes, ‘The FDA currently recommends that adults consume 15 milligrams of zinc per day, and that children younger than five consume 8 milligrams per day. But food packaging, which shows recommended intake levels calculated in '60s, still says that adults should consume 20 milligrams per day.’
The authors spoke to one expert, Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional scientist at the University of Toronto, who said, "If you think about it, every single food sitting in the grocery store has a nutrition fact panel right now that is largely irrelevant for young children.”
Mother Jones went on to cast a dark shadow over the multi-national corporations that are pushing these products. ‘Part of the reason for children’s overconsumption of certain nutrients is marketing: If products are marketed as healthy, people are more likely to buy them,’ the report explains, ‘According to New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle, “Plenty of research demonstrates that nutrients sell food products. Any health or health-like claim on a food product - vitamins added, no trans fats, organic - makes people believe that the product has fewer calories and is a health food…Added vitamins are about marketing, not health.”’
Read the full report from the Environmental Working Group.
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