breakfast cereal

One of the most perverse aspects of American culture is, that despite volumes of data about toxicity to human health of many processed foods, those considerations pale in contrast to profits these substances can reap for the corporate bottom line. Interesting case-in-point is the popular breakfast cereal, Honey-Nut Cherrios, as pointed out recently in the NY Times.

It actually has about nine times as much sugar as plain Cheerios, per serving. An Environmental Working Group analysis of a number of popular cereals — a report that linked sugary cereals to the “nation’s childhood obesity epidemic” — put Honey Nut Cheerios’s sugar content second only to Fruity Pebbles. The same group found that one cup of the cereal had more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.

And, despite efforts though public policy and education to put the sugar and big food companies in the spotlight for deceiving the public about the calamitous impacts of sugar – nutritionally and economically – victories against the powerful food industry and lobby are slow in coming. A recent article in The Week encapsulates the problem,

For years, dieticians have warned us to steer clear of fat and cholesterol — the two food evils long believed to be fueling the West’s obesity, diabetes, and heart disease epidemics. But a growing number of nutritionists are now pointing the finger at sugar, arguing that our overconsumption of sodas, candy, cookies, and other sweets and processed foods is the real cause of our health crisis. Some go even further, arguing that sugar is an addictive “poison” that causes a whole host of degenerative ailments — including cancer — even in thin people. Evidence has emerged that shows the sugar industry may have downplayed those risks for profit — turning the modern Western diet into the sweetest in human history. “We’re in a whole new world of sugar consumption,” says Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina. “We don’t really know what that means for our health.”

While these battles must be addressed and fought on the public policy level, it’s equally essential that consumers reject these processed and packaged products in favor of real foods. This also holds true for so-called “organic” breakfast cereals, amped-up with organic sweeteners. While the sugar addiction is strong, it must be overcome – individually and collectively – if we’re going to take back America’s health from the profit-hungry poison pushers.