Scientists at the Children's Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston,Texas, have found that ready-to-eat cereals fortified with a moderateamount of calcium can help kids meet their calcium needs withoutdecreasing iron absorption.
In 1997, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences evaluated dietary requirements for calciumand related nutrients. In general, the board recommended higher intakesthan previous standards. Fortifying orange juice, cereal and other foodproducts with calcium has helped Americans meet the academy's recommended calcium levels. Foods are fortified so that each serving provides at least 100 milligrams (mg) of calcium.
Steven A. Abrams led the study, which involved 27 Houston-area children,aged six to nine years old. The children were given two 1-ounce servings of cereal each day for two weeks. One of the servings was eaten at breakfast with milk; the other was eaten at lunch, as a snack, without milk.
Half the children received cereal fortified with 156mg of calcium perounce, while the others were given a non-fortified cereal containing 39mgper ounce. Calcium fortification was done by adding calcium carbonate tothe dry-mix cereal before cooking.
At the end of the study, Abrams found that all the children absorbed aboutthe same amount of iron per day. But those who ate the fortified cerealalso absorbed about 50mg more calcium, which is roughly equivalent todrinking an extra 2 ounces of milk. According to Abrams, increasing theamount of one nutrient in the diet can sometimes work against theabsorption of others, but not in this case.
This study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics with a report in the December 2002 issue of ARS Research. The CNRC is operated by Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital and the US' Agricultural Research Service.