Diary of Unknown Symptoms

Mystery of the Internal Vibration

Entry for September 05, 2006


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It’s 7 a.m. Do you know what your kids are eating?
Many breakfast cereals contain as much sugar as candy does, a study finds

ANDRÉ PICARD From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

Most parents would bristle at the idea of serving their children chocolate bars for breakfast.

But many popular breakfast cereals contain four to six teaspoons of sugar a serving, as much or more sugar as in gooey chocolate bars, according to research commissioned by The Globe and Mail and CTV News.

That data reveal that:

A bowl of Post Sugar-Crisp contains as much sugar as a Mr. Big bar;

A typical serving of Cocoa Puffs is the equivalent of downing a 50-gram bag of Hershey’s Kisses;

Starting the day with a serving of Corn Pops, Honeycomb or Lucky Charms is about the same as gobbling a Kit Kat;

“Reduced sugar” versions of morning favourites like Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops contain as much sugar as a Reese’s peanut butter cup;

Even healthier-sounding offerings such as Mini-Wheats have as much sugar in a serving as a Kinder Surprise.

“I think parents know that these cereals are sugary but they don’t understand the extent,” said Leslie Beck, a dietitian at the Medcan Clinic in Toronto.

“When you say, ‘Your child is eating the equivalent of a Mars Bar for breakfast,’ that should hit home,” she said.

Ready-to-eat cereal is a mainstay of Canadian breakfast. By some estimates, 80 per cent of children routinely eat cereal in the morning (not to mention after school and before bed).

Ms. Beck said parents should not dismiss cereal altogether but look for brands with plenty of fibre, not too much refined sugar, and top it with fruit and milk for a wholesome meal. “There’s umpteen kinds of cereals, but you have to make the right choices,” she said.

Yet many children are filling their bowls with candy disguised as cereal, and their consumption of sugar and empty calories is contributing to the burgeoning epidemic of childhood obesity.

The results of The Globe and Mail CTV research are disquieting for parents who think of cereal as a healthy breakfast.

A 50-gram serving of Sugar-Crisp, for example, consists of almost 27 grams of sugar — or almost six teaspoons worth. That is more sugar than a Coffee Crisp chocolate bar.

A bowl of Frosted Cheerios has almost 22 grams of sugar, and even a healthy-sounding cereal like Honey Nut Chex has close to 16 grams of sugar.

That is the same amount of sugar — some four teaspoons — as the new version of Froot Loops, which is touted as having “one-third less sugar.”

Don Blair, a spokesman for Kraft Canada Inc., the maker of the popular cereals Sugar-Crisp and Alpha-Bits, said the company “believes in offering consumers choice, which include cereal varieties that are low in fat and sugar.” He noted that Sugar-Crisp, the cereal with the highest sugar content in the Globe/CTV research, is low in fat and a source of five essential nutrients.

Mr. Blair also noted that the recommended serving size of Sugar-Crisps is 30 grams. Since there is no standard serving size for cereal, The Globe and Mail and CTV asked a number of children to pour themselves a serving, and the average was more than 50 grams. Also, children commonly eat more than one bowl of cereal.

“Very clearly there is a reason why there is so much sugar in breakfast cereals, and it’s to get children to eat something they otherwise would not,” said Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California at San Francisco Children’s Hospital.

Bran, oats, wheat and rice — staple cereals — do not excite taste buds on their own. So sugar, salt and fats are added and grains are refined.

According to the U.K. Food Standard Agency, 76 per cent of cereals have high levels of sugar, 19 per cent have high levels of salt and 7 per cent have a high fat content.

Worse yet, the sugar added is often fructose (rather than real fruit) and the grains are refined to the point where they are devoid of fibre and nutrition. (Then cereals are fortified with iron and vitamins.)

Some nutrition experts believe breakfast cereals should not even be classified as food.

“A food substitute is what it really is,” Dr. Lustig said. He said high-sugar cereals wreak havoc on the body’s metabolism, prompting children to overeat, and affecting their ability to learn.

But children today also have a lot of pester power and use it to get parents to buy cereals that are recognizable and with good toys.

“Cereal is convenient; it’s quick and busy parents don’t like to fight with their kids” said Peter Nieman, a Calgary pediatrician who runs an obesity clinic.

He said while it is true many children are picky eaters, it’s simply not true that healthy foods taste lousy.

“Parents give up too easily, that’s why they buy things like Cocoa Puffs” Dr. Nieman said.

He believes the ideal breakfast for active, healthy kids is a smoothie, a combination of fruit, yogurt and grains like flax.

Dr. Nieman tries to put the consumption of sugary cereals in perspective for parents by telling them: “Imagine if I take out the sugar bowl, and scoop out six teaspoons into your child\’s mouth.

“It’s disgusting, but it’s what a lot of kids do every day.”

Breakfast of champions?

You’d never consider a Kit Kat for breakfast, but it contains no more sugar than at least one popular cereal.

Amount of sugar in a 50-gram serving of cereal compared to a chocolate bar.

Cereal and chocolate bars compared

Cereals vs Chocolate bars

Sugar Crisp 26.60 g

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups 26.56 g

Kit Kat 26.19 g

Mr. Big 25.83 g

Snickers 25.42 g

Coffee Crisp 24.00 g

Hershey’s Kisses 23.70 g

Twix 23.60 g

Nesquik cereal 23.30 g

Froot Loops 22.50 g

Cocoa Puffs 22.20 g

Count Chocula 22.20 g

Kit Kat Dark 22.00 g

Trix 21.60 g

Frosted Cheerios 21.60 g

Lucky Charms 21.60 g

Kinder Bueno Bar 19.70 g

3 Ferrero Rocher 18.60 g

Corn Pops 18.60 g

Honeycombs 18.30 g

Cinnamon Toast Crunch 16.66 g

Alpha-Bits 16.60 g

Honey Nut Chex 15.62 g

Frosted Flakes 12.10 g

Rice Krispies 5.35 g

SOURCES: COMPANY REPORTS

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September 5, 2006 - Posted by | Health | , ,

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