Sugarcoating the Truth
Snap, crackle, thud: That could be the jingle for cereal manufacturers who have tried low-sugar versions of some popular sugar-sweetened cereals. Reduced-sugar versions of Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, Trix, and Frosted Flakes have recently appeared on supermarket shelves, and most consumers who purchase them think they're buying a healthier alternative to the super-sweet originals. But scientists have found that the cereals contain virtually the same amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and nutrients as the original versions. Nutritionists at five universities were recently asked by the Associated Press their opinion of these new cereals. They suggested that eating low-sugar cereals held no nutritional advantage. The scientists found that the removed sugar had been replaced with other carbohydrates to preserve the cereal's crunch. Since the body treats all refined carbohydrates the same, whether they are grains or sugars, these low-sugar cereals don't even benefit people with diabetes. Bottom line: The cereals are just a marketing ploy. They were introduced last year after the media began focusing attention on the nation's obesity problem, particularly among children and adolescents. Food lobbying groups have frequently cited sugary cereals as part of the problem, stating that the cereals encourage children to consume empty calories rather than nutritional whole foods. All the negative publicity forced food companies to come up with new ways to sell their products to a public obsessed with weight-watching and health. What is the cereal manufacturers' view on all this? Well, they claim they never said the low-sugar cereals were more nutritious, just lower in sugar. They say they simply are providing a variety of options to buyers who are concerned about the amount of sugar in their diets. They can sugarcoat it all they want, but the truth is, if you're concerned about your sugar intake, your best bet is to avoid these cereals altogether.