Vitamins are one of those things we’re always striving to get enough of. But, even the nutrients we thrive on must be consumed in moderation. As it turns out, hidden vitamins in fortified foods may be causing us to unknowingly go overboard.
A new report for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says nearly half of kids age eight or younger in the United States are consuming potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin from foods with added vitamins, and that pregnant women and seniors are also at risk for excessive consumption. According to the environmental group, outdated national labeling rules in addition to fortification of processed foods, are to blame.
Too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, skeletal abnormalities, hair loss and can result in developmental abnormalities in a fetus, if present in a pregnant woman, says the group. And too much zinc has negative effects on the immune system, and affects red and white blood cell function.
So what foods should you (and your kids) avoid? Well, be careful walking down the cereal aisle. After analyzing over 1,550 cereals, the report concluded that General Mills Total Raisin Bran, General Mills Wheaties Fuel, and Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies among other cereals, are overly-fortified with at least one of these vitamins.
And even worse? Snack bars. After analyzing over 1,000 snack bars, EWG found that over 27 common brands of snack bars were hitting consumers with even higher doses of the nutrients.
As Research Director at EWG and a co-author of the report Renee Sharp said, “Heavily fortified foods may sound like a good thing, but it when it comes to children and pregnant women, excessive exposure to high nutrient levels could actually cause short or long-term health problems."
“Manufacturers use vitamin and mineral fortification to sell their products, adding amounts in excess of what people need and more than might be prudent for young children to consume," she said.