ELK GROVE VILLAGE, ILL. — Children given the option of eating low-sugar cereals will do so, and generally like the taste, according to a new study from researchers with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The study, which was published on-line Dec. 13 in Pediatrics, examined 91 school-aged children at New England summer camps. Of the children, 46 were allowed to choose from one of three high sugar cereals — Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Pebbles — that contain between 11 and 12 grams of sugar per serving. The remaining 45 children chose from three cereals — Cheerios, Rice Krispies and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes — that were lower in sugar, with about 1 to 4 grams of sugar per serving.
Both groups of children were allowed to choose from low-fat milk, orange juice, bananas, strawberries and extra sugar.
According to the study, children in the low-sugar group added more sugar than the others, but also more fruit (54% versus 8%). Children in the high-sugar group ate significantly more cereal (61 grams versus 35 grams) and almost twice as much refined sugar (24.4 grams versus 12.5 grams) than the low-sugar group.
Additionally, a questionnaire issued as part of the study found that while most of the children indicated they liked the three high-sugar cereals significantly more on average than the low-sugar cereals, 90% of the children who chose a low-sugar cereal said they found a cereal they “liked” or “loved.”
“Compared with serving low-sugar cereals, high-sugar cereals increase children’s total sugar consumption and reduce the overall nutritional quality of their breakfast,” the researchers said. “Children will consume low-sugar cereals when offered, and they provide a superior breakfast option.”
The study’s findings come a few days after Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc. said it is meeting its goal of reducing sugar in cereal advertised to children, and in 2010 it has cut sugar by an additional 8%, on average, in those cereals. The company said it now has achieved sugar reductions of 14% since 2007, with some cereals reduced as much as 28%.