Cereal Killers

Corn FlakesDr. John Kellogg – healer or killer?    History’s verdict is still out on the long-deceased 19th century self-styled health guru.    Notwithstanding Dr. Kellogg’s well-intentioned goal of improving American nutrition,  his inspiration may have resulted in the creation of an overweight insulin-addicted nation. In 1894, Kellogg was Superintendent of Battle Creek Sanitarium and Health Spa in Michigan where he tried to encourage his patients to eat healthy. While producing many products, his ultimate aim was to produce a substitute for bread and in 1906 the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Co was born, with its star product, the Corn Flake.   This gentle flake transformed breakfast and then, over the years, was transformed into the sugared flake.   Any shopper who ventured down the cane-coated cereal aisles of local supermarkets will justifiably scoff at the notion of most breakfast cereals being nutritious.  Yet, an ABC poll shows that cereal and milk accounted for 31% of Americans’ breakfast — more than eggs, muffins or any other breakfast meal. Yikes!

Attention-getting words like “Reduced Sugar” or “Whole Grain” are designed catch your attention on food packages.  Cereals are forever “New and Improved”.  However, experts from 5 universities recently reviewed the leading kid’s cereals, including these reduced sugar versions, only to discover that the calorie amount was equal to the regular high sugar variety. In fact the ONLY one that had somewhat fewer calories was General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch—and it only dropped by 10 calories in each serving.

“How can this be?!” you marvel. Well, the manufacturers replaced the sugar with other forms of refined carbohydrates. So the manufacturers are legal in their marketing endeavors, but the calorie amount is virtually the same. Seeing is believing. Check out the nutrition labels the next time you are in the grocery store. You’ll be truly amazed…as well as deservedly deceived, frustrated and angered.   When the Huffington Post did this, it found two disturbing things.   First, portions sizes are artificially low, so that when the Nutrition Label on the box says there are only 9 grams of sugar per serving, in all likelihood you’ll be serving yourself twice that size for your breakfast.  Voila!  9 grams now turns into 18 grams of sugar in just one meal.  The journalists other discovery was that “healthy” cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran and Cascade Granola had more sugar than “garbage” cereals like Fruity Pebbles. In fact, some of the cereals sailed past the halfway mark for how much sugar many experts believe people should consume in a day.

These cereals don’t just pose a threat to our waistlines;  they are targeted at our children.   Tony the Tiger, Captain Crunch and Lucky the Leprechaun are just some of the cartoonish Pied Pipers leading America’s youth down a path of sugar addiction and related diseases. Sugar intake has been linked with heart and liver disease, diabetes, hypertension and adult obesity among other illnesses. High sugar/sucrose intakes have been associated with the following conditions:

  •  Tooth disease 
  •  Increased tendency for blood clots 
  •  Decreased levels of good cholesterol (HDL) 
  •  Increased levels of a blood fat & triglycerides associated with diabetes and heart disease 
  •  Childhood obesity
  •  Greater skin wrinkling in a cross-cultural elderly 

And it isn’t just sugar.  The image of healthy breakfast cereal was shattered recently when the British Consumers Association accused food giants Kellogg’s and Nestle of producing breakfast foods containing excessive amounts of sugar and fat. Servings of popular brands contained four times as much salt as a 25g bag of roasted peanuts.     And we feed this stuff to the children that we profess to love?!?!

And please consider the recently reported case of a Type-2 diabetes sufferer.   She was 3 years old and morbidly obese.  After 6 months of lifestyle changes monitored by doctors, she was “cured”.   For many people, lifestyle changes really do make a difference.   The doctors replaced her soda, high-sugar cereal and fast food diet with balanced home cooked meals and water.

Finally, and this may be the toughest punch to absorb, cereals are largely made of wheat-products and used with dairy products. Children generally don’t know enough to spot whether the gluten in wheat is causing them distress or even discomfort.   But, in fact, this foundational food of children’s breakfasts may be inadvertantly causing your children to either suffer from gluten-intolerance effects or perhaps heighten the likelihood that their bodies will become gluten-intolerant in their adult years.  Add to that the potential for lactose intolerance of the cow’s milk used with most cereals.  The number of kids with food allergies went up 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 3 million children younger than 18 had a food or digestive allergy in 2007.

Should you be eating breakfast cereals?   Not unless you have no other choices.  And you should definitely be rethinking whether you want to feed breakfast cereals to your children and if the milk they use should come from cows.

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