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What's Up Magazine

Supplementing Our Confusion

Aug 06, 2014 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds
As discussed previously, taking vitamin supplements may or may not be a good thing. Pills, however, are not the only delivery system we have to monitor. Just in case you weren’t concerned enough, we now have to worry that breakfast cereals are being packed with even more added vitamins and minerals than ever before. And this has some people very concerned.

A report published in June 2014 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a respected “environmental health research and advocacy organization” in D.C., states: “Because the Food and Drug Administration’s current dietary Daily Values for most vitamins and minerals were set in 1968 and are woefully outdated, some products may contain fortified nutrients in amounts much greater than the levels deemed safe by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Well then why would food companies continue and expand this practice? As the EWG explains: “Nutrient content claims are used as marketing tools. High fortification levels in a product can induce consumers to buy certain foods because they seem ‘healthier’ even though they might not be, as the Institute of Medicine has pointed out in multiple reports.”

In the June 2014 report the EWG focused on three added nutrients in particular: vitamin A, zinc, and niacin. In fact, according to the EWG, “fortified breakfast cereals are the number one source of excessive intake [of these three] because all three nutrients are added to fortified foods in amounts calculated for adults, not children.” Of course, vitamin A, zinc, and niacin are recommended for our good health, but doses that are too high “can cause toxic symptoms.”

The EWG report clarifies: “Routinely ingesting too much vitamin A from foods such as liver or supplements can, over time, lead to liver damage, skeletal abnormalities, peeling skin, brittle nails and hair loss, These effects can be short-term or long lasting. In older adults, high vitamin A intake has been linked to hip fractures. Taking too much vitamin A during pregnancy can result in developmental abnormalities in the fetus. High zinc intakes 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.”

Discovering the secret to healthy eating once again comes back to consuming foods that have been “engineered” the least. In short, don’t mess too much with your meals. —S.H.