Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's In Your Diet Wednesday? - Low Sugar Cereals = More Fruit?

Who doesn't remember their favorite cereal as a kid.....Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, and Fruit Loops just to name a few.  Obviously, while these cereals and many others have been consumed for....well practically forever by children around the country they often have a theme in common.  Sugar....and lots of it!!

Since I'm not of that young age anymore....I've moved away from the cereals of my youth in favor of lightly sweetened varieties and from my own perspective I'd have to say the following article has some merit.  Although I would definitely like to see some long(er) term (30 - 90 day) data.

Read this article from Medical New TODAY.....
When Given Low-Sugar Cereals, Children Will Eat More Fresh Fruit

If you give children low-sugar cereals and place some fresh fruit and sugar on the table, most of them will add a good portion of fresh fruit, researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, wrote in the medical journal Pediatrics. The study provides encouraging evidence that despite heavy marketing of sugar-laden cereals aimed at children, kids can and will make sensible nutritional decisions on their own if given the chance.

Although breakfast is widely accepted as a crucial meal which should not be skipped, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals contribute significantly to a child's daily intake of added sweeteners. Studies have shown that cereals specifically targeted at children have considerably more sugar added than other breakfast cereals, the authors explained. Not only is breakfast nutritionally important for a child's health, it is also vital for good academic performance.

Because of these factors, children tend to consume much more refined sugar than they should.

Parents get mixed signals from messages via the media, many supposedly coming from experts. While some report that only low-sugar cereals should be made available for kids, others stress that compared to no breakfast at all, serving high-sugar cereals is better.

Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, and team carried out a randomized study involving 90 children, aged 5 to 12 years, who were attending summer day camp. They wanted to find out whether kids will eat low-sugar ready-to-eat cereals, and what effect serving high vs. low sugar cereals might have on how much fruit, refined sugar, and milk they consumed.

The children were assigned to two groups:

  • Low-Sugar Cereal Group - they could chose from Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies or Cheerios. Cereals which have from 1g to 4g of sugar per serving.
  • High-Sugar Cereal Group - they could chose from Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Pebbles or Froot Loops. Cereals which contain from 11g to 12g of sugar per serving.
In front of each child there was a 8 ounce container of milk (1% fat), bowls of banana sections and chopped up strawberries, and a small cup of orange juice. Individual sugar packets, more milk, and more juice were placed in the middle of the table which children were free to use. They were told to eat at will.

At the end of their meal the kids filled out a questionnaire which asked whether they added sugar, ate any fruit, and how much they liked their breakfast.

The researchers found that the children in the Low-Sugar Cereal Group consumed approximately 12.5g of refined sugar during breakfast compared to 24.4g in the High-Sugar Cereal Group. They also reveal that 54% of the Low-Sugar Cereal Group added fresh fruit to their breakfast, compared to 8% in the High-Sugar Cereal Group.

90% of all the children said they liked or loved their breakfast. The average breakfast rating in the Low-Cereal Group was 4.5, and 4.6 in the High-Cereal Groups (out of a maximum rating of 5 and minimum of 0).

The Low-Sugar Group had an average of just one cereal serving; compared to nearly two servings in the High-Sugar Group.

Although the kids in the Low-Sugar Group added more sugar to their breakfast cereal, their total refined sugar intake, at 0.7 teaspoons, was considerably lower than for those in the High-Sugar Group, who had 5.7 teaspoons.

Orange juice and milk intake was the same in both groups.

14% of calories came from refined sugar and 18% from fruit in the Low-Sugar Group, compared to 25% from refined sugar and 12% from fruit in the other group, the authors revealed.

The researchers added that repeatedly giving children high-sugar breakfast cereals will eventually give them a much sweeter palate - they will go for sweeter foods in general.

The authors concluded:

"Compared with serving low-sugar cereals, high-sugar cereals increase children's total sugar consumption and reduce the overall nutritional quality of their breakfast. Children will consume low-sugar cereals when offered, and they provide a superior breakfast option."

As the study was extremely short - children were observed for just one meal - the scientists stress that longer and larger trials would be required to confirm their findings. They add that the participants were mainly children of low-income households.

"Effects of Serving High-Sugar Cereals on Children's Breakfast-Eating Behavior"

Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBAa, Marlene B. Schwartz, PhDa, Amy Ustjanauskas, BAa, Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, PhD, RDb, Kelly D. Brownell, PhD
PEDIATRICS (doi:10.1542/peds.2010-0864)
I've never put a pencil and paper to it where my kids are far as keeping track of dates and times.  But I do try to limit their sugar intake as much as possible (no high sugar cereals) and if they do add sugar to a meal....they are only allowed a light sprinkling.
Whether a person puts their faith in this article or even my humble opinion....our fruit consumption is higher than most.  Bananas, apples, oranges, kiwi and many, many others are welcomed in our home and quickly gobbled up....
What do you think of this study conclusion?  Do you have evidence of your own?  Tell us about it in the comments.....

1 comment:

Julie M. said...

We keep the high sugar cereals out of our home as well. I find my kids eat the low sugar cereals just find with no complaints. It's definitely an interesting article. I can't believe some of the facts the cereal companies tout with regards to their sugar cereals.

Thanks for the twitter shoutout! It great to find you! Have a wonderful weekend!