Over and Above

By Dean L. Jones, CPM

Over 1400 cold ready-to-eat cereals in the United States contain added processed sugars, some having up to six different kinds including sugar mixed with corn syrup, honey, dextrose or high fructose corn syrup.  Cereals marketed to children have more than 40% more processed sugars than adult cereals, and twice the sugar of oatmeal.  Over 77% of children’s cereals contain more than 2 teaspoons of processed sugar in a single serving, which is more than a quarter of the daily limit for an 8-year-old.

This sort of information has been around for decades, and I am not expecting anyone to make a change in their daily routine of eating packaged cereals, as it seem to be a way of life.  Although I am bothered by the amount of added processed sugar, the other substances packaged into the foodstuff are additional vitamins and nutrients that can also harm our health.  Food packages often boast about being fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients are looking at the recent scientific research showing how fortified foods can be particularly harmful to children under the age of eight.

The vitamins that may be too much for children are zinc, niacin and vitamin A, because excessive doses can contribute to liver damage and skeletal abnormalities.  The big irony is that fortified foods were originally intended to treat nutritional deficiencies, particularly in children.  The big catch-22 is how the way we practice eating morning meals with ready–to-eat cereals, without fortification the bulk of American children would not get enough vitamins and minerals in their diets.

Another fortification in packaged foodstuff is folate and folic acid that are members of the B vitamin family.  Folate is the form found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other foods and folic acid is the synthetic form that is added to food or used as an ingredient in vitamin supplements.  The body absorbs folic acid faster than it absorbs folate, but then must convert it into folate before it can get to work.  It is good to know that their names come from folium, the Latin word for leaf.  Good sources of natural folate include various greens, beans, sunflower seeds, and many other fruits and vegetables.

Since 1998, folic acid has been added to most enriched bread flours, cornmeal, pasta, rice, and other grain products in the U.S. and Canada. This was done to help prevent spina bifida and anencephaly, two birth defects that are caused in part by too little folate in a mother’s body around the time her baby is conceived.  The USDA National Nutrient Database shows natural folate in lentils, spinach, black beans, sunflower seeds, turnip greens, broccoli, orange juice, and peanuts.  Packaged ready-to-eat items may need to take a back burner by eating items closer to the source of fresh vitamins and minerals, while staying SugarAlert!

Dean Jones, Ethics Advocate, Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), contributes his view on health attributes derived from processed foodstuff items.