Thursday, February 5, 2015

Infant foods becoming less and less healthy? An alarming trend.

Sugar is in the news for all wrong reasons. Though it is a taste maker for beverages and all sweetish products, its role in causing some diseases has made it a great villain. In fact to day's obesity epidemic is being attributed to greater consumption of white sugar. Whether there is universal agreement or not, sugar is considered by many as an addictive substance and its continued use is difficult to curbed because of this fact. It is for nothing that health experts are advocating putting restrictions on levels of added sugar present in processed products realizing the damage of potential of this "white demon"! though food industry is being pressured to cut down on added sugar in their product portfolio, such voluntary efforts cannot bring any dramatic results. From the industry view point consumer liking forms the basis of their product formulations and in a fiercely competitive market all players have to agree to restrict sugar levels in their products. What is alarming is that even children's foods are not spared when it comes to addition of sugar in their formulations. almost 30-35% of the products targeted at infants and young children have more sugar than necessary, obviously to attract more and more of their targets to their products. Even healthy products containing many nutritive ingredients are rendered unhealthy due to loading with sugar. Here is a take on this alarming situation in a country like USA where reliable data is available

A new CDC study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, tells us something about infants and sugar that is worrisome, though not especially surprising if you've been following the food industry's efforts to mislead the public and influence the science and policy on added sugar. The study examined the salt and sugar content of commercial infant and toddler food in the U.S. Researchers looked at a 2012 dataset of 1074 infant and toddler foods and beverages. Among infant products, they found that 41 of 79 mixed grains and fruits—i.e. healthy seeming items—contained more than one added sugar; in 35 infant items, more than 35 percent of calories came from sugar. Among toddler products, the researchers found that 72 percent of dinners and most cereal bars, breakfast pastries, fruit, snacks, desserts, and juices contained more than one added sugar. Given the American Heart Association's recommendations on added sugar, it's pretty clear from the CDC study that many very young children are getting too much.  How do parents know how much is too much?
The study concludes with advice to pediatricians. Namely, counsel parents to pay attention to labels on the food and drink products they buy for their infants and toddlers and try to limit the added sugar.  An added sugars declaration on the Nutrition Facts label would empower consumers with knowledge of how much sugar has been added to foods. Currently, the Nutrition Facts label does not provide parents with enough information to truly make informed decisions. Total sugar is listed in grams—not the more familiar teaspoons—and neither the amount of added sugar nor the percent daily value are provided. So parents, who may be trying diligently to follow their pediatricians' science-informed advice, cannot know how much sugar has been added to the foods and beverages they are feeding their infants and toddlers—or how much is too much.
As the FDA considers its proposed rule to update the Nutrition Facts label to include added sugar, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are concurrently developing the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A forthcoming report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee—an independent scientific body tasked with providing guidance to the agencies—is expected to contain recommendations on limiting added sugar to a maximum of 10 percent of daily calories and including added sugar and percent daily value on the Nutrition Facts label. It would be an important, science-based step forward not only for parents of young children but for all Americans if the agencies decide to adopt the DGAC's recommendations on limiting and labeling added sugar.

The fact that early childhood eating practices have an important bearing on the body weight when they grow up, it is necessary that the nutritional standards of children's foods, especially infant foods are made stiff so that industry is not allowed a free hand in making and marketing whatever they feel like doing. When new guidelines are made there should be restrictions regarding use of the two white "poisons" viz, sugar and salt so that the future generations are not exposed to unnecessary dangers during their evolution into adulthood. Strict compliance must be insisted upon in stead of leaving them as just guidelines because voluntary efforts in a fragmented industry like food processing does not work as shown by past experience.


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