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Lunchables may be munchable -- but study warns of salt


March 16, 1997
Web posted at: 10:55 p.m. EST (0355 GMT)

From Correspondent Al Hinman

ANAHEIM, California (CNN) -- Medical researchers are issuing a dietary warning about Lunchables, a convenience food marketed as a complete meal that's popular with children.

The problem, in a word, is salt, according to a study being released at the American College of Cardiologists annual conference.

Some Lunchables, with meat, cheese, crackers and even a desert, contain nearly three-fourths of the recommended daily salt allowance, said Dr. Clarence Grim, a high blood pressure specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The packages should carry a warning label, he said.


"We think this is junk being fed to our kids. I call it a blood pressure bomb," Grim said.

Grim fed a diet of ham-and-cheese Lunchables to rats. After three weeks, the rats' blood pressure increased by 20 percent. And studies show that what happens in rats can happen in humans, he said.

A child nutrition expert said she's not sure there's enough research to prove the link between high salt intake in children and high blood pressure.

Registered dietitian Susan Boekel said she lets her children eat Lunchables occasionally.

"My concern is that they are really not that nutritious," said Boekel, of the Scottish Rite Medical Center in Atlanta. "They would be what I call an empty calorie meal. If they're used occasionally, say once a week or so, I think it's fine."


But Oscar Mayer, the company that makes Lunchables, called the study "junk science at its worst."

"... Feed four rats all the Lunchables they can eat for three weeks and then use that to make a sweeping conclusion," the company statement said. "Nobody would eat a diet of all Lunchables, or any other single food."

But the study's author said the findings are important.

"If you have high blood pressure, or come from a family with high blood pressure, you should minimize your intake of this sort of food," Grim said.


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