When it comes to vitamins, how much is too much of a good thing? That is the question recently asked by a nonprofit agency that took a closer look at the amount of vitamins kids are eating when they dig into a bowl of fortified cereal.
A new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that certain vitamins — specifically vitamin A, zinc and niacin — are present in excess amounts in kids' cereals, amounts that might even be harmful to children.
How is it possible that foods that are marketed to children could be harmful for children? The EWG blames flawed government policies and and misleading marketing for the dilemma.
Probably the biggest issue is that the recommended percent daily values for nutrition content that appear on the labels are based on adults. Only "a tiny, tiny percentage" of cereal packages list age-specific information when it comes to recommended daily allowances of nutrients, says Renée Sharp, EWG's director of research. "That's misleading to parents and is contributing to the problem."
The other problem is that cereal manufacturers fight for sales by trying to make their products appear more nutritious than they are, so the overload them with vitamins to make the nutrition labels appear healthy. And sure, it's important to get a good dose of vitamins and minerals everyday, but according to the EWG, ingesting certain vitamins — such as the ones mentioned in their report — in large quantities may be harmful to kids. Over time, large doses of vitamin A can lead to health issues such as liver damage and skeletal disorders. Too much zinc can mess up the body's ability to absorb copper and negatively affect red and white blood cells. And consuming too much niacin can cause upset stomach, rashes, and even vomiting, the report says.
The EWG report found that more than 10 million American children are getting too much vitamin A; more than 13 million are overloading on zinc; and nearly 5 million get too much niacin.
So does that mean that your child needs to give up her favorite cereal? Probably not. The EWG recommends that parents simply limit their consumption and look for cereals that contain no more than 20 percent to 25 percent of the adult daily value for each of the nutrients.
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