Baby Cereal, Natural Weight Loss Products, and Carob

Q: Is it true that adding cereal to a baby’s bottle helps him or her sleep through the night?
Q: As long as a weight loss product is labeled natural and “clinically proven,” there’s no reason to avoid it, is there?
Q: What is carob?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is it true that adding cereal to a baby’s bottle helps him or her sleep through the night?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts on infant nutrition discourage adding cereal or any other solid food to a baby’s bottle. Solid foods such as cereal are generally not recommended in any form until a baby is six months old. Because an infant’s digestive system is immature, adding these foods earlier increases the chances that food allergies will develop. Experts also express concern that cereal in a bottle can lead to overfeeding, which can begin an unhealthy road to overweight. Moreover, research simply does not support the suggestion that feeding infants cereal aids them in sleeping through the night. Young babies have such small stomach capacity compared with their nutritional needs that they need calories every few hours. For infants who are naturally more wakeful at night, experts recommend creating a soothing environment, dimming the lights and keeping play to a minimum to help your little one settle down.

Q: As long as a weight loss product is labeled natural and “clinically proven,” there’s no reason to avoid it, is there?
A: There is plenty of reason! Label claims on supplements and weight-loss aids are not approved in advance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Manufacturers can make a wide variety of claims as long as they don’t advertise their product as a cure for a specific disease. Manufacturers do not have to offer proof of clinical test results, so there is no way to verify the kind of testing that was done, who and how many subjects were tested, or how the results were analyzed. Even claims that a product is safe cannot be trusted, since they don’t have to be substantiated. In fact, the onus is on the FDA to prove dietary supplements unsafe, not on manufacturers to prove them safe. Pay particular attention to the safety claims on some products (usually listed in small print) that warn certain groups not to use the product. Also look for disclaimers that the product may contain ingredients that have questionable safety records.

Q: What is carob?
A: Carob is a large, dried, bean-like pod that comes from an evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean. The pods are roasted and ground into carob powder, which looks very much like cocoa and can be used as a chocolate or cocoa replacement. People who have allergies to chocolate or who are bothered by the caffeine-like substance found in chocolate and cocoa may tolerate carob. Although carob powder is lower in fat and naturally sweeter than cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate, the calorie content of foods made with carob depends on the amount of fat, sugar and other ingredients added. In the end, calorie and total fat content may end up no lower in carob-based products.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research

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