Low-Sugar Cereals Offer No Gains
New versions of cereals provide no additional dietary benefits, experts say
The experts reviewed six major brands of sweetened cereals—including General Mills, Kelloggs, and Post—that have released “low-sugar” versions of popular breakfast treats. The research was conducted in response to a request from the Associated Press and reported earlier this week.
The researchers could not indicate any major health improvements that the new low-sugar cereals provided over their original counterparts, according to Lilian W. Cheung, director of Health Promotion and Communication in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Although these new cereals have less sugar than the original cereals, there were no significant improvements in the calorie count, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, or any other nutritional contents, according to their research. This is due to the replacement of sugar with refined carbohydrates in order to maintain a sweet taste.
“Our bodies receive no benefit from getting less sugar but more refined carbohydrates,” Cheung said.
The new cereals were developed in response to parental requests for low-sugar products, and do not claim to improve health any more than the original cereal options, company officials told the Associated Press.
It is tempting for the average consumer to equate these low-sugar products with healthy foods which can help with weight loss and disease prevention because of the emphasis popular diets place on reducing sugar intake, Cheung said.
Consumers should be shopping for high-fiber cereals, which reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, Cheung said.
Kelloggs Vice President of Nutrition Christine Lowry said that the company has not marketed low-sugar cereals as low-calorie, weight-reduction products. She said that consumers should examine nutrition labels, according to the Associated Press.
Cheung similarly advised concerned shoppers to look carefully not only at nutrition information, but also at the ingredients—specifically, processed whole grain and high-fiber products.
“A good intake of fiber is 2.5 grams. An excellent intake would be 5 grams,” she said.
In September, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) switched from General Mills and Kelloggs brand cereals to Malt-O-Meal and Nature’s Path brands.
According to Jami M. Snyder, Communications Coordinator for HUDS, the switch to these organic, less expensive alternatives was “to expand our overall cereal options.”
Cheung encourages students to examine the ingredients and nutritional information of these new brands in the dining halls.