October 21, 2018

Children Consuming Too Many Vitamins in Cereals, Snack Bars

Environmental Working Group has posted a study stating that almost half of American children under the age of 9 consume “potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc, and niacin because of excessive food fortification, outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading tactics used by food manufacturers.

Important RecallIt is possible to overdose on these nutrients, especially the fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A. If children consume too much Vitamin A, they can suffer liver damage, hair loss, and skeletal abnormalities. Too much zinc can lead to impaired copper absorption, anemia, changes in red and white blood cells, and impaired immune function. And too much niacin can cause rashes, nausea, and liver toxicity.

The Institute of Medicine warned in a 2005 report for the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program that excessive exposure to those nutrients posed a risk to formula fed infants and toddlers. When all sources of nutrition are combined, 59% of 1 to 14-year-old children exceeded the upper intake level for vitamin A and 72% exceeded that level for zinc.

Cereals and snack bars are the main culprit. Nutrition claims on sugary cereals lead parents to believe that the products are more nutritious than they are. Loading these products with nutrients when they are made mostly of sugar and refined carbohydrates doesn’t make them a good choice for a healthy diet.

Another problem: the Daily Values listed on these products, which are mostly marketed to children, are for adults. A cereal that states one serving provides 50% of the DV for vitamin A is for adults. FDA’s DV for adults and children “actually exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for children 8 and younger.”

The products that are most problematic include Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies and Krave along with General Mills Wheaties Fuel. Balance Bars, Kind bars, and Marathon bars also contain too much of these added nutrients for children.

EWG states that the federal nutrition labeling system relies on obsolete Daily Values, which date back to 1968. They were calculated for adults, not children. The FDA needs to set DV levels that reflect current science, update serving sizes to reflect the amounts consumers actually eat, modernize the 1980 guidelines on voluntary food fortification, and address the manufacturers’ misuse of nutrient content claims.

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