I’m a fan of vitamin D, but…

The breakfast cereal company Kellogg’s has been in the news this week (see here for an example). The ‘news’ is that the company is going to start adding vitamin D to some of its choice products including Rice Crispies and Coco Pops. The idea, it is claimed, is designed to counter the growing incidence of rickets (caused by vitamin D deficiency) in children.

It’s easy for me (and many others) to be cynical about these sorts of initiatives. Whatever the benefits of vitamin D may be, please let us not forget what sort of ‘food’ this nutrient is being added to: nutritionally bereft fodder with added sugar and salt.

However much Kellogg’s likes to portray Rice Crispies and Coco Pops as healthy, it is my considered opinion that these ‘foods’ are not only rubbish, but hazardous to health. Adding vitamin D to them should not detract from this, I think.

Of course, not all will agree with me, Take, for instance, the view expressed by Jacqui Lowdon of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) in the item I link to above. Here it is: “…
if we can get vitamin D into food children like to eat, that’s fantastic.”

Again, this is my opinion, but I believe this stance is utterly misguided and a potential hazard to our children’s health. Using the same logic we could put vitamin D not just in rubbish breakfast cereals but in any old crap including doughnuts and biscuits and describe this as ‘fantastic’ too.

How can we explain such apparent mind-numbing idiocy?

Well, the first clue comes in a reference in the article above to the fact that a BDA survey finds that a majority paediatric dieticians are seeing more rickets in the last five years. I don’t have Kellogg’s press release, but this suggests to me that the whole vitamin D in cereal idea has been cooked up, at least in part, in conjunction with the BDA (though I might be wrong).

But if this is indeed the case, then I would not be at all surprised. And that’s because the BDA has a habit of partnering up with Kellogg’s. See this search result on the BDA’s own website for details.

Also, from the BDA’s 2010 annual report we can learn that Kellogg’s support the BDA’s Centre for Education and Development courses, and that: ‘Throughout this year, a series of articles was published in Dietetics Today in association with Kellogg’s…’

These associations could help explain why a representative of the BDA views the addition of vitamin D to foods kids like to eat (however crappy they are) as ‘fantastic’.

24 Responses to I’m a fan of vitamin D, but…

  1. Lisa Thomas 28 October 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Well I suppose a little Vitamin D is better than nothing even if it’s coming from poor food, as you say.

  2. Mandy Cochrane 28 October 2011 at 4:11 pm #

    And the BDA are supposed to be the “good” guys? With friends like these…

    How on earth are people supposed to learn a better way of eating if even the “experts” promote the idea that crappy sugary cereals like these are suddenly acceptable because of some artificial additives?

    And speaking as a parent, my priority isn’t so much “food children like to eat” as “food they get given because I know it’s good for them”. That’s the line the BDA should be taking, not making it easy for parents to take the soft option and feed their families substandard food.

  3. John Briffa 28 October 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Lisa

    I’m not sure about that. If you put some vitamin D on a carpet tile, would it make it good to eat?

    Mandy

    I agree with everything you say.

  4. Richard David Feinman 28 October 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Maybe they mean as strategy to prevent rickets the idea is ‘fantastic’ which the Dashboard on my Mac defines as:

    adjective
    imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality
    (of a shape or design) bizarre or exotic;more appropriate to a fairy tale than to reality or practical use.

  5. John Briffa 28 October 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Richard

    That made me laugh and, I think, that just about sums it up.

  6. jayney goddard 28 October 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    Mandy – absolutely!

    Richard – LOL – how true

    John – agree that carpet tiles are not too yummy – in contrast to your low-carb ‘pizza’ recipe you shared a while back – which is totally delish.

    Very scary indeed but no more than we should expect. One only has to look to the USA and the way that the FDA cozies up with ‘Big Food’. Kellogg’s – being a US company – have had years to work on this kind of strategy. Gotta hand it to their marketing bods – great job!

  7. darcy 28 October 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Im a Dietitian and I agree. Im not in favour of the idea that crap loaded with a vitamin makes it better. Wouldnt be surprised if many of us feel the same.

  8. Deborah McDonnell, MNIMH 28 October 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    My understanding of dieticians is that they work in hospital settings and are thus oriented to supplementation through pills, not proper food. What they know about nutrition from the ground up could probably be written on a postage stamp. I’ve always understood that nutrients are best absorbed when taken with real food (not simple carbohydrates doused with sugar). This is a cynical marketing ploy at best.

  9. Lesley 28 October 2011 at 8:29 pm #

     There is evidence that the safety of vitamin D is dependent on vitamin K, and that vitamin D toxicity (although very rare with the D3 form) is actually mitigated by vitamin K2 deficiency. So if you take oral vitamin D, ideally you should take vitamin K2 as well. So will they add Vitamin K I doubt it ?

  10. Frederica Huxley 28 October 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    As happens in US foods, the vitamins added are synthetic and non bio-available – less than useless! In this case, you can be sure that the vitamin D will be D2, not D3. As you say, Lesley, D2 is more likely to cause toxicity than D3, but if the impossible occurred, and vitamin K were added to the junk cereals, it would most certainly be a synthetic K1! As for the relationship between the BDA and the food giants – it is truly pernicious.

  11. Victoria Dame 28 October 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    This sounds very similar to what General Mills (I think?) was doing with promoting their cereals as healthy with more fiber. It’s still garbage and doesn’t warrant the “healthy” moniker. My son gets cereal once in a blue moon, just because. But by no means is it a daily breakfast. Nor is it considered “part of a healthy breakfast.”

    This all just goes right along with how most parents are raising their children anyway. I don’t believe most parents (of course not all, same actually do care what kind of citizens they create)give a squat what they give their children nutritionally as long as they (the children) don’t make a fuss about it. I honestly cringe thinking about what our society is going to be like in 15 to 20 years. God help us.

  12. JustmeinT 28 October 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    this runs along similar lines as companies (?paying for) receiving the red TICK of approval for heart health…… on prepackaged/processed foods. If it comes in a box it just ain’t natural!

  13. Kris 29 October 2011 at 2:15 am #

    Excellent article and I agree with everything. Garbage food is still garbage even though it is supplemented with a vitamin.

    They are discussing supplementing foods with Vitamin D in my country (Iceland) but fortunately foods like milk, cheese and butter instead of rubbish like most cereals are.

    It actually seems that the mainstream doctors and nutritionists here have acknowledged the importance of Vitamin D, and how the RDA is way too low.

  14. Marian 29 October 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Our team of Paediatric dietitians would never recommend sugary cereals such as these. We would suggest healthy food sources of vitamin D and vitamin supplementation as per Department of Health guidelines…
    http://www.child-nutrition.co.uk/Judy%20More%20172.pdf

  15. Sam 30 October 2011 at 1:28 am #

    Of course the BDA is going to promote Kelloggs if they’re funding them :) it is all about they money, the couldn’t give a damn about the health of our nation.

    It’s a bit like the dairy industry in the U.K, more in the US which funds many ‘health promoting powers’..misleading the public and causing harm in the name of money.

    Not to mention most of Kelloggs cereals are heavily fortified with vitamins and FOLIC ACID, which has been proven to cause illness in its supplemental, isolated form.

  16. Cordier 30 October 2011 at 11:14 am #

    And yet…It’s not rocket science to take a few drops of vitamin D3 each morning at breakfast on a little piece of bread or a teaspoon of milk or orange juice for the children(under the supervision of an attending physician),then to check the blood level of “25(OH)vitD” two months after…

  17. DoctorM 30 October 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Vitamin D has become fashionable of late (see my comment on MS in an earlier thread) – so to food manufacturers ‘Vitamin D is the new Omega 3′ – I guess they will have used this mantra , or something similar, within their marketing departments !! So why would you not expect food manufacturers to jump on the latest bandwagon ? Food manufacture and its marketing has nothing to do with health but all to do with profit – of course all breakfast cereals (with very few exceptions) are highly processed foods and not to be eaten at all in my opinion – the reality of whether mass medication with Vitamin D, Omega 3, Folic Acid or any other additive is beneficial or harmful is completely irrelevant unfortunately.

  18. smgj 31 October 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    If you add vitamin d to cardborard… you’re still eating cardboard. Even if it’s d3 you’re adding.

  19. Angela 31 October 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    What I want to know is… how many bowls of Coco Pops will a child have to eat to get their daily intake of Vitamin D?

  20. DoctorM 1 November 2011 at 12:44 am #

    According to a 1960 study at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, rats who ate the cardboard box lived longer than those who ate the cereal inside – so this might be seen as maligning cardboard !!

  21. Ani 3 November 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    I agree that adding vitamins to poor food is not a great idea and doesn’t educate anyone about healthy eating.

    Also, will they be adding vitamin D3 or D2?

    In addition I would like to highlight a study by Hypponen & Power in 2007 – in that study individuals who ate vitamin D fortified margarine did not have significantly higher vitamin D levels than those who did not, so fortification didn’t work in that instance. However those who ate more oily fish or took supplements did have higher vitamin D levels.

    Hypponen E & Power C. 2007. Hypovitaminosis D in British Adults age 45y: nationwide cohort study of dietary and lifestyle predictors. Am J Clin Nutr. 85:860-868

  22. Karen Harrison 9 November 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    @ Deborah McDonnell, please do not stereotype dietitians. We are all different. I agree that supplementing poor food with vitamins gives an appalling message and would not recommend it. I do not use pills to supplement – this tends to be the so-called nutritionists who make money in this way. I gain nothing by recommending specific products, except improved health for my patients. I am a parent and I cook – I certainly have more knowledge of food than can be written on a postage stamp. I would appreciate that you stop tarring all dietitians with the same brush – would you do that for GP’s?

  23. manny pacquiao 29 December 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Well i guess all those Vitamin D they stuff in cereals are not enough at all. you would definitely get more than enough vitamin D if you expose yourself to sunlight early in the morning. eat healthy as well. instead of eating cereals why not go for more natural foods, get an active lifestyle as well.

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