It may be best to stick to having jam on toast for your breakfast.
A landmark new study has unveiled the worst nightmare for cereal lovers – eating a bowl each morning could make you obese.
Not only are certain varieties full of sugar, but they contain a common additive that could well be a gender-bending chemical.
Evidence has shown such compounds to wreak havoc on animals’ waistlines, but until now, the effects on humans had yet to be accurately revealed.
Butylhydroxytoluene, often added to protect nutrients, was one of three endocrine disruptors tested by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center researchers.
It is more commonly known as E321, and used to be listed in the ingredients panel of Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp.
General Mills, the US manufacturer of such popular ranges, pulled the additive from its production line amid growing concerns over its safety.
Campaigners were concerned because of its links to liver damage, and inconclusive evidence on various forms of cancer.
Manufacturers instead seek to use its chemical cousin E320. This can be found in Kelloggs Special K bars in the US, as well as Weight Watchers Double Chocolate Cereal Bar.
The other two chemicals tested were perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – found in carpets, and tributlytin (TBT), a compound that can be found in water and seafood.
A ‘landmark’ study
Lead author Dr Dhruv Sareen said: ‘We discovered each of these chemicals damaged hormones that communicate between the gut and the brain.’
Dr Clive Svendsen, also involved in the research, added: ‘This is a landmark study that substantially improves our understanding of how endocrine disruptors may damage human hormonal systems and contribute to the obesity epidemic.’
How was the study carried out?
In the first study of its kind, researchers developed a new testing method to test the effects of endocrine disruptors on humans.
They investigated the exposure of the three chemicals on hormone-producing tissue grown from human stem cells.
It was done to see how the compounds interfere with signals sent from the digestive system to the brain that tell people when they are full.
When this messaging system breaks down, people often continue eating, causing them to gain weight.
What did they find?
Of the results, BHT produced some of the strongest detrimental effects, the study published in Nature Communications noted.
The chemicals also damaged mitochondria – cellular structures that convert food and oxygen into energy and drive the body’s metabolism.
Other scientists have focused on how these compounds disrupt hormone systems in animals, hence the gender-bending nickname.
More than one-third of US adults are considered to be obese, according to federal statistics. Data in the UK paints a similar picture.