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Are low-sugar cereals really better for you?

Frostedflakes_smallStop the presses—a new Associated Press study says experts who have examined the spate of new lower-sugar versions of breakfast cereals found they have no more significant nutritional value than their full-sugar counterparts. In fact, they have nearly identical amounts of calories, fat, salt and chemical preservatives. AP says execs at General Mills, Kellogg’s and Post were at a loss to explain why the reduced-sugar cereals were the better choice. (Not that they were shy about suggesting health benefits, with the lower-sugar claim printed on boxes in type that is nearly as large as the product names.) Breakfast cereals continue to be touted as a healthy start to a kid’s day, while the reality is they are nothing more than overly refined, processed junk food whose only nutrients come from what marketers add through enrichment. This may be top of mind lately with this AdFreak correspondent, who smiles every time she reads about the Saatchi 17 General Mills defectors, who were out touting themselves as experts in youth, families and health to industry holding companies who could bankroll a new business for them. Their real expertise, of course, lies in some of the industry’s most insidious marketing tactics aimed at young, impressionable minds that see the bright, cartoon-like boxes of cereal as an extension of popular TV and movie characters. Buried in the AP story may be found the real news: “The $6.2 billion cold breakfast cereal industry has good reason to pay attention. Nearly 90 percent of children ages 6-12 regularly eat cereal ... and while overall cereal sales have been sliding, sales of reduced-sugar cereals grew by almost 50 percent last year, accounting for nearly $357 million in sales.”

—Posted by Noreen O’Leary

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