The Dangers of Sugar in Kids' Cereal

Nutrition facts from cereal label

The Dangers of Sugar in Kids' Cereal
| Published May 15, 2014 |

By Thursday Review staff

One of the most profound links between childhood obesity and diet can be found in sugar consumption. Doctors and diet experts have long warned that Americans, in particular, are at risk for continued high levels of obesity based on sugar intake, but children are at especially high risk for early weight gain—and the inevitable health problems associated with being overweight—through their heavy consumption of sugar and products loaded with sweeteners.

Eating and health patterns formed in childhood translate into bad eating habits and poor health well into adulthood, and with those patterns come increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, breathing issues, sleep apnea, stomach and colon problems and even an increase in the risk of internal cancers.

A non-profit consumer watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. says that many children get their sugar from cereal—most especially those cereals marketed by food companies for kids. Environmental Working Group says that its research shows kids who eat those cereal brands specially packaged for children can consume ten pounds of sugar in a single year, and EWG says that these cereals may include many of the 1500 brands it analyzed in the study.

Though many kids also get large amounts of sugar through soft drinks—Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, to name but a few—many cereals contain sugar levels even higher than sodas, based on per serving consumption. When heavy consumption of soft drinks and sugared cereals are combined, the effects can be dramatic, often leading to obesity and diabetes at an early age.

EWG and other consumer groups are asking food companies to stop marketing cereals directly to children (through television, games, magazines and other forms of kid-friendly media) if that cereal contains six grams or more of sugar per recommended serving. EWG says its study shows that at least 181 cereals manufactured by the major food companies are marketed heavily directly to children, often using TV advertising.

Most consumer advocates and health specialists recommend taking the time to read the newly-revamped nutritional panels on all packaged foods, but especially those marketed to children. Parents are also urged to become more vigilant in managing the eating habits of their children and to be cognizant of sugar in foods crafted for kids.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Better Food Labels on the Way; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; January 25, 2014.