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EarthTalk®


According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification. Photo by Andy Melton, courtesy Flickr

According to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification. Photo by Andy Melton, courtesy Flickr


E – The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that much of our food—including cereals and snacks eaten by children—is actually over-fortified with excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals that can be dangerous to our health?
             – Diane Summerton, Waukesha, WI
Added nutrients in the processed foods we eat could indeed be too much of a good thing, especially for kids. According to a report from non-profit health research and advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly half of American kids aged eight and under “consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification, outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading marketing tactics used by food manufacturers.” EWG’s analysis for the “How Much Is Too Much?” report focused on two frequently fortified food categories: breakfast cereals and snack bars.
Of the 1,550 common cereals studied by EWG, 114 (including Total Raisin Bran, Wheaties Fuel, Cocoa Krispies, Krave and others) were fortified with 30 percent or more of the adult Daily Value for vitamin A, zinc and/or niacin. And 27 of 1,000 brands of snack bars studied (including Balance, Kind and Marathon bars) were fortified with 50 percent or more of the adult Daily Value for at least one of these nutrients. EWG researchers based their analysis on Nutrition Facts labels on the various food items’ packaging.
“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,” says EWG research director Renee Sharp, who co-authored the report.  “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.”
Sharp adds that excessive levels of vitamin A can lead to skeletal abnormalities, liver damage and hair loss, while high doses of zinc can impede copper absorption, compromise red and white blood cells and impair immune function. Also, too much vitamin A during pregnancy can lead to fetal developmental issues. And older adults who get too much vitamin A are at more risk for osteoporosis and hip fractures.
EWG suggests it’s time to overhaul our food labeling system to better account for how ingredients may affect children as well as adults. “In other words, when a parent picks up a box of cereal and sees that one serving provides 50 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A, he or she may think that it provides 50 percent of a child’s recommended intake,” says EWG researcher and report co-author Olga Naidenko. “But he or she would most likely be wrong, since the Daily Values are based on an adult’s dietary needs.”
EWG is working on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update its guidelines for Nutrition Facts to better reflect how foods affect children as well as adults. In the meantime, parents might want to consider scaling back on fortified foods for their kids in favor of so-called whole foods (unprocessed, unrefined fruits, vegetables and whole grains) that deliver the right amounts of nutrients naturally.
“Research consistently shows that the nutrient amounts and types found in whole foods provide optimal nutrition as well as least risk,” says Ashley Koff, a registered dietitian and a former ad executive for kid’s cereals and snack bars. “We owe it to parents and kids to make it easiest to choose better quality foods.”
See EWG’s “How Much Is Too Much?” report, www.ewg.org/research/how-much-is-too-much.
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

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Herbs for health


By Perry T. Hopkins, Naturopath (TBWP)

Proper health comes from proper nutrition. The body will function at its ideal level when fed the right nutrients. It will build bones when given the right amount of calcium and silica; the muscle will naturally relax with adequate amounts of magnesium and potassium. The body can combat inflammation with vitamin C; Our eyes will function properly with Vitamin A and Beta-carotene. A healthy immune system relies on a healthy intake of nutrition. The brain requires adequate amounts of essential fatty acids—Vitamins A, B1, B3, B5, B6, and E, essential amino acids, bioflavonoid, melatonin, many trace minerals and more. Most of today’s illness can be attributed to lack of good nutrition as a leading cause.
Herbs are super foods! Herbs are foods that contain high amounts of nutritional value. Most have therapeutic properties to them as well. If we use herbs in our daily diets it will help sustain a health immune system and body. Combining the sea vegetables kelp or spirulina with rose hips helps give the body multiple vitamins.
Spirulina is a super food used in many green drinks. It is recommended to consume spirulina when doing a fast so your body still gets its needed nutrients while you are not eating. It contains a Vitamin B complex, B 12, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, all eight essential amino acids, ten non essential amino acids, Vitamin E, folic acid, digestive enzymes, chlorophyll, iron, and many more. Kelp is a similar alternative to spirulina.
Kelp contains a little more iodine than spirulina, which helps with thyroid issues. Most of your natural iodine and sodium gets depleted from a diet high in table salt. Table salt is a synthetic source of iodine and sodium. Synthetics tend to leach the natural nutrients from the body. Kelp will help replenish these loss minerals.
The leaves from parsley and nettles are good hydrating herbs. These two herbs, besides giving nourishment, help support the urinary tract. There are literally thousands of herbs that you can eat or drink to gain nourishment and get the body back on track to functioning properly. Herbs, sometimes, are easier for the body to uptake than supplements because herbs are a whole food and not an altered substance.
There are people who can help you be healthy without the use of pills. If you are tired of feeling ill and tired of popping pills to feel better, look for different help. With more people looking towards natural health, just about every town and city has a Nutritionist, Naturopath, Herbalist, or something similar to those titles. These people can help you in your efforts to getting healthy in a more natural way, through eating and drinking. If you have been going to someone for help with your health and you are not seeing results, it may be time to seek help elsewhere. Try herbs for health.

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