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Too Much of a Good Thing

Consumer Reports takes a closer look at downside of foods with added nutrients.

Orange juice with Vitamin C and Calcium … Nutrition Bars with added vitamins … Energy drinks, too! Americans spend billions of dollars on fortified foods every year.

Consumer Reports takes a closer look at downside of foods with added nutrients.

In the supermarket, you see lots of foods that promise a "vitamin boost," "triple the calcium," or "protein plus." But Consumer Reports' Jamie Kopf says foods pumped up with extra nutrients could be too much of a good thing.

"We came up with a hypothetical list of all the fortified foods that a person might eat in a single day. And then we calculated how much you'd get of certain nutrients if you did that."

Say for breakfast you have two cups of coffee, cereal, orange juice, plus a multivitamin and a couple of calcium chews.

A little later on - a nutrition bar. For lunch a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and lemonade. Then mid-afternoon - a protein shake.

A while later, an extra-strength energy drink. Finally, mac and cheese for dinner.

Here's what that adds up to. For calcium - almost four times what's recommended.

"That's too much of a good thing. If you consume excess calcium over time you could end up with problems like constipation, kidney stones, and possibly impaired absorption of iron and zinc."

Next, caffeine - the total is around 470 milligrams, more than the recommended daily limit of 400 milligrams.

"Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, a rapid or abnormal heart rate, and increased blood pressure."

And the sample diet has five times the recommended amount of folate, which can mask a B12 deficiency.

"The bottom line is that you really need to read labels on fortified foods to make sure that you're not getting too much. Just because some of a vitamin or mineral is good doesn't necessarily mean that more is better."

And a balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains should provide all the vitamins and minerals you need - no fortified foods necessary.

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