Can “Healthy” Cereal Be Doing Your Kids Harm?

What’s in Your Cereal Bowl?
By HF Guest Writer, Ellen (of Body Earth) of Williamsburg, MA

If you’re like a lot of folks who believe cold cereal topped with reduced-fat milk is a great way to start your day, you might want to think again! Even a breakfast of “healthy” boxed cereals might not be good for you.

In her doctoral thesis, Swedish nutritionist Susanne Eriksson presented results of a study of nutrition and bone health in eight-year-olds. She found that children who drank full fat milk more than once a day had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who either never drank or rarely drank whole milk. Children who drank reduced fat milk didn’t show the same inverse association with BMI.¹

The study also found an association between lower BMI and higher saturated fat intake. I’m not surprised by this finding either, as saturated fats, eaten by our ancestors for centuries, are nourishing foods that have been vilified by the Powers That Be. (I’m not talking about the nasty man-made trans fats, which unfortunately are often lumped together with saturated fats in studies, completely muddling any results.)

Breakfast Cereal:

Regardless of the claims on the box of “healthy” cereal, it might actually be doing you harm. Did you know that most cold breakfast cereal is created through a process called “extrusion?” Extruded cereals are made from a slurry of grains that is heated to a high temperature and then forced through a small hole to make shapes, shreds, flakes or puffs. The high heat and pressure of the extrusion process alters the proteins in the grains.

Analysis of the grains after extrusion indicates that this industrial process breaks up the carefully organized proteins they contain, creating neurotoxic (damaging to nerves) protein fragments.²

I came across two shocking unpublished studies of extruded cereal.

The first study was discovered by Paul Stitt, a biochemist who worked for the food industry, including a stint with Quaker Oats. Here’s how he describes this study in Beating the Food Giants the online version of Fighting the Food Giants:

While I was doing research on my project in Quaker’s library, I came across a little flyer that the company had published in 1942. It contained a report on a study in which four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole-wheat kernels, water, vitamins and minerals. Another group received Puffed Wheat, water, and the same nutrient solu­tion. A third set was given water and white sugar, and a fourth given nothing but water and the chemical nutrients. The rats which received the whole wheat lived more than a year on the diet. The rats who got nothing but water and vitamins lived for about eight weeks, and the animals on a white sugar and water diet lived for a month. But Quaker’s own laboratory study showed that rats given vitamins, water and all the Puffed Wheat they wanted died in two weeks. It wasn’t a matter of the rats dying of malnutrition; results like these suggested that there was something actu­ally toxic about the Puffed Wheat itself. Proteins are very similar to certain toxins in molecular structure, and the puffing process of putting the grain under 1500 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure, and then releasing it, may produce chemical changes which turn a nutritious grain into a poisonous substance. And Quaker has known about this toxicity since 1942.³

The second study (which I find rather cruel) tested the nutritional content of corn flakes. Rats at the University of Michigan were fed diets containing water and either corn flakes, rat chow, or the corn flake box. The rats on the corn flake diet died before those eating the cardboard box! Once again, the extruded cereal seems to have had major ill effects.

Remember that not only cereals are extruded. Many snack foods and even pet foods are extruded. Pringles, anyone?


Check out these web sites for some healthy breakfast ideas:

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Guest Blogger: Ellen Doyle

Rodents?  What rodents?
By Ellen Doyle, HF Guest Blogger

Scrabble tiles are a delicacy. (Photo Credit: Ellen Doyle)

Living in an old house in the hilltowns, we’ve had mice flock in each fall only to journey back out into the world each spring. We’ve learned the hard way not to store birdseed or cracked corn inside the house lest we find little piles of it hidden in some warm dresser drawer. We now keep baking chocolate sealed up tight because mice don’t care if it’s sweet or not. We’ve often labeled one jar of peanut butter for human consumption and the other for Havahart trap baiting. Oh, and the scrubbing! I’ve scoured entire contents of kitchen drawers and spice cabinets after discovering one tiny dropping. I’ve even given in and called an exterminator when the epidemiologist in me concluded that health risks to family (Salmonella) outweighed any concerns about karmic justice. I mean, we really tried. Usually, we could get the mice under control.

Last fall I got my first inkling that the rodent situation might be a little bit worse in the coming cold season. The chilly October temps brought a slew of little creatures in from the elements. Chipmunks scurried around the wood pile. Red squirrel footprints led right up to the house and disappeared. And, a few of the mice who were supposed to have made their own way in the world during the summer months decided they liked hanging out in our cool basement.

I’ve heard that the rodent population has exploded in recent years, not just in the hilltowns, but all over. Perhaps global warming is to blame. In any case, the furry little foragers got the better of me. Let me tell you what happened…

My husband and son were playing Scrabble on the floor recently when their game got interrupted. They left the tiles in place thinking they’d be coming back to finish up. After a couple of days, I really needed to vacuum and decided to put the game away. Curiously, I could only locate seven Scrabble tiles. After a cursory glance around the living room, I decided to quiz my family. No one had any idea where the tiles had gone. Suspecting that some of them may have been hidden on purpose, I offered a free ice cream cone to anyone who could locate them. We searched behind furniture, under rugs and in the wood pile. Finally, when I saw my son looking up at the smoke detector as a possible location, I knew we had a true mystery on our hands.

A few evenings later I was rearranging the bookshelf near the woodstove when I hit the mother lode in the binding of a photo album. Not only did I find numerous Scrabble tiles socked away, but I was also happy to discover a missing chocolate chip, some macaroni noodles from a kindergarten art project and few grains of dried rice. Leaping into disease-ridding mode I trashed the old food and commenced a frenzy of hole-plugging and caulking every crack thicker than a whisker. I dumped the Scrabble tiles into a big bowl of hot, soapy water. After they had a good soak, I spread them on a towel on the kitchen counter to dry overnight.

The next morning: Sleepily wandering into the kitchen in search of coffee, I spotted the tile towel on the counter, COMPLETELY DEVOID OF TILES. I ran upstairs to question my husband, who swore he had not touched the tiles.  My son  had been tucked into bed happily asleep during the whole tile-drying time. Fearing a ghost (perhaps one attempting to spell a message?), I returned downstairs quaking. Had to have that coffee.

The next night: A brilliant idea! I would conduct an experiment. I furiously searched for the Scrabble game I’d cleaned up a few days before and located the 7 remaining tiles tucked into the box. I would tempt the creature to take the last 7 and then would know for sure that Scrabble tiles are a delicacy. I carefully arranged the tiles on the kitchen floor to avoid little footprints on the counter and went to bed.

Morning #2: I anxiously peered into the kitchen to see what results my experiment had yielded. Drum roll, please… Ta Da! The tiles were still there, just as I had left them. A little disappointed not to have lured the creature out of hiding, I set about trying to figure out what had happened.

Conclusion: Some friends and family went so far as to use the “R” word, causing me to shudder, imagining a pack rat in our house! Luckily, we don’t possess much in the way of expensive, shiny jewel-type objects them might temp such a creature. However, after an exhaustive web search, my husband came up with what I think is the most plausible explanation for Scrabble tile hoarding. Check out this little creature.

I doubt if gerbils have found their way into our home, but I wouldn’t put it past a little red squirrel… Oh, as for those remaining tiles, I suspect they don’t have the same delicious varnish on them that the stolen ones did. Our Scrabble set was inherited from the neighbors and has probably traveled through about 10 families and had countless replacement tiles before making it into our living room. We’ll need a new Scrabble game. And a cat.  Read the rest of this entry »

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