USDA data finds nutritional improvement in cereal

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A study published in Procedia Food Science shows that the amount of fiber in breakfast cereal from two major manufacturers, The Kellogg Co. and General Mills, Inc., increased 32% in the United States between 2005 and 2011, while the amounts of sugar and sodium decreased 10% and 14%, respectively.


Data in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) were examined to discern trends in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals resulting from manufacturers’ reformulations, many in response to public health concerns and consumer demand. The majority of the nutrient data for breakfast cereals in SR are supplied by manufacturers. Nutrient data and ingredients for Kellogg and General Mills ready-to-eat cereals within SR were examined, as those brands represent 62% of the U.S. market. Mean values for total sugar, total dietary fiber, and sodium were calculated for those manufacturers’ breakfast cereals within SR releases 18 through 24 (2005–2011).

Values from SR18 (120 products) were compared to those from SR24 (151 products). Sugar levels fell from 27.5 to 24.8 g/100 g and sodium from 511 to 438 mg/100 g, a reduction of 10% and 14%, respectively. Fiber levels rose from 7.1 to 9.4 g/100 g, a 32% increase.

Nutrient comparisons were made using paired t-tests on a subset of 83 products, which excluded cereals that had been added or dropped between SR18 and SR24. From 2005 to 2011, sugar and sodium levels decreased by 7.6% and 11.2%, respectively, while fiber levels increased by 13.4%. Whole grain ingredients were found in at least two-thirds of the cereals examined in SR24.

The researchers concluded that “Trends observed in this important breakfast category demonstrate positive changes in the nutrient composition which may have an important impact on public health.”

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