Have cereal companies gone too far when it comes to adding vitamins? According to a new report, children today are getting excessive amounts of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc and niacin, and fortified breakfast cereals are the number one source of these added vitamins and minerals.
The study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based health research and advocacy organization, found that "millions of children are ingesting potentially unhealthy amounts" of vitamins and minerals because all three nutrients are added in amounts calculated for adults, reports USA Today.
EWG analyzed the Nutrition Facts panels of 1,556 cereals and identified 23 with the highest added doses. The report said: "A child age eight or younger eating a single serving of any of them would exceed the Institute of Medicine's safe level. The 24 cereals with the highest added nutrient levels include national brands such as Kellogg's and General Mills, and store brands such as Food Lion, Safeway and Stop & Shop."
The report also identified 114 cereals that were fortified with 30 percent or more of the adult daily value (or recommended level of intake) for vitamin A, zinc and/or niacin.
According to USA Today, the FDA said in a statement that proposed daily values for infants (7 to 12 months) and young children (1-3 years) are being considered, but not for 4- to 8-year-old children "because they consume the same foods as the general population" and the FDA is not aware of foods that were sold specifically for this age group. The daily values for most vitamins and nutrients on nutrition facts labels were set by the FDA in 1968. The organization is currently updating Nutrition Facts labels.
While vitamins and minerals are essential for health, too-high doses can cause a variety of symptoms. The EWG report stated routinely ingesting too much vitamin A from foods can over time lead to liver damage, skeletal abnormalities, peeling skin, brittle nails and hair loss. High zinc intake can impair copper absorption and negatively affect red and white blood cells and immune function. Niacin is less toxic than vitamin A and zinc, but consuming too much can cause short-term symptoms such as rash, nausea and vomiting.
EWG recommends that parents give their children products with no more than 20 to 25 percent of the adult Daily Value for vitamin A, zinc and niacin, and monitor their children's intake of these and other foods so kids do not get too much of these nutrients.