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It is marketed primarily as a low-fat cereal that can be eaten to help one lose weight. It frequently has give-away offers for various health and fitness products or contains dieting information on the back of the box. It is also generally targeted at adults, rather than children.
The diet that Special K advocates is called "The Special K Challenge." The goal of "The Special K Challenge" is to lose six pounds in two weeks. The diet is as follows: For meal number one, one may have a serving of any Special K Cereal with 2/3 cup skim milk and fruit. For meal number two, one may have a Special K Protein Meal Bar, a Special K Protein Shake, or another serving of Special K cereal with 2/3 cup skim milk and fruit. Meal number three can be eaten normally. Throughout the day, one may consume two Special K snacks, choosing from Special K Protein Snack Bars, Special K2O Protein Water Mixes, Special K Cereal Bars, Special K Crackers, or Special K Fruit Crisps. For additional snacks, one may consume fruits and vegetables. Drinks may be consumed normally.
In North America, Special K Original has 120 Cal per 31 g cup serving. One serving contains 0.5 g fat, 23 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar and 6 g protein. In the UK, Special K Original is 17% sugar, meaning a 30 g serving contains 5 g of sugar.
In the UK, an advertising campaign has focused on the results of a study run in collaboration with the Department of Human Sciences at Loughborough University, requiring overweight volunteer subjects to replace two meals a day with a bowl of the cereal.  The study found that "after 2 weeks, up to 75% of subjects had slimmer waists and hips. The university's scientists concluded that the majority of this was due to fat loss."
Special K received four stars out of five on the Australian Government's health star ratings.
In the US, Special K currently comes in twelve different varieties:
- Special K Original
- Special K Chocolatey Delight
- Special K Chocolatey Strawberry
- Special K Cinnamon Pecan
- Special K Blueberry
- Special K Red Berries
- Special K Vanilla Almond
- Special K Fruit & Yogurt
- Special K Protein Plus
- Special K MultiGrain Oats & Honey
- Special K Low Fat Granola
- Special K Chocolate Almond
In the UK & Ireland, Special K similarly currently comes in a number of varieties:
- Special K
- Special K Red Berries
- Special K Purple Berries
- Special K Peaches & Apricots
- Special K Bliss Creamy Berry Crunch
- Special K Bliss Strawberry & Chocolate
- Special K Blueberry Muffin
- Special K Blueberry Cake
- Special K Oats & Honey
- Special K Yoghurty
- Special K Sustain
- Special K Medley
- Special K Chocolate
- Special K Fruit & Nut
In Spain, Special K comes in 5 varieties:
- Special K Classic
- Special K Chocolate Negro
- Special K Chocolate con Leche
- Special K Frutas Rojas
- Special K Avena Integral con Miel
Special K provides meal replacements in the form of Special K Protein Meal Bars and Special K Protein Shakes.
There are six varieties of Special K Protein Meal Bars:
- Chocolate Peanut Butter
- Double Chocolate
- Chocolatey Chip
- Chocolate Caramel
- Honey Almond
There are three varieties of Special K Protein Shakes:
- Milk Chocolate
- French Vanilla
Special K snacks are marketed as low-fat alternatives to regular snacks. There are several varieties of Kellogg's Special K snacks, including Special K Protein Snack Bars, Special K2O Protein Water Mixes, Special K Cereal Bars, Special K Crackers, Special K Chips, and Special K Fruit Crisps.
There are two varieties of Special K Protein Snack Bars:
- Chocolate Delight
- Chocolate Peanut
There are three varieties of Special K2O Protein Water Mixes:
- Iced Tea
- Pink Lemonade
- Strawberry Kiwi
There are nine varieties of Special K Cereal Bars:
- Peaches & Berries
- Chocolatey Drizzle
- Vanilla Crisp
- Honey Nut
- Chocolatey Pretzel
- Raspberry Cheesecake
- Chocolatey Chip Cookie
There are two varieties of Special K Crackers:
- Savory Herb
There are four varieties of Special K Chips:
- Sea Salt
- Sour Cream & Onion
- Southwestern Ranch
There are two varieties of Special K Fruit Crisps:
There is one variety of Special K Cracker Chips:
Special K Mini Breaks are a low-fat bite-size snack. They come in the following flavours:
- Zesty Lemon
- Mellow Caramel
Wheat bran, soy grits, rice, wheat gluten, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, whole grain wheat, contains 2% or less of sugar, salt, malt flavoring, sucralose, natural and artificial flavor, BHT for freshness.
Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate), niacinamide, reduced iron, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), folic acid, vitamin B12.
with Red Berries: rice, whole grain wheat, sugar, wheat bran, freeze-dried strawberries, brown sugar syrup, soluble wheat fiber, 2% or less of salt, malt flavoring. Vitamins and Minerals: vitamin C (ascorbic acid), reduced iron, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate), niacinamide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, vitamin B12,
Until the summer of 2014, Special K's formula was different in Canada from that used in the US. With the June, 2014 closure of Kellogg's London, Ontario plant, Canadians will eat Special K that is made in the U.S.
The discontinued Canadian formula had a different taste which reflected the "Canadian taste preference" (according to the Consumer Relations department of Kellogg's in Canada). The Canadian formula included rice, wheat gluten, sugar/glucose-fructose, defatted wheat germ, salt, malt (corn flour, malted barley), vitamins (thiamin hydrochloride, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, d-calcium pantothenate), iron, and BHT added to the package material to maintain product freshness.
'Original': Rice, wheat (whole-wheat, wheat flour), sugar, wheat gluten, defatted wheatgerm, dried skimmed milk, salt, barley malt flavouring, vitamin C, niacin, iron, vitamin B6, riboflavin (B2), thiamin (B1), folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.
'New delicious 3 grain recipe' (introduced 2013): Rice (45%), wholewheat (32%), sugar, barley, malted barley flour, barley malt flavouring, salt, vitamin C, niacin, iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin), folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.
Australian and other markets
The company announced on its website in late February 2013 that it was recalling three sizes of the Special K Red Berries in the US for containing pieces of glass.
Denmark has outlawed the addition of vitamins in Kellogg's products since 2004. Danish health officials banned cereals containing added vitamins because, they claimed, Kellogg's wanted to add extremely high levels of vitamin B6, calcium, folic acid and iron, which would reach toxic levels when eaten on a daily basis. Young children risk liver and kidney damage, while the fetuses of pregnant women can suffer complications from the toxins.
The Dutch television show Keuringsdienst van Waarde, in an episode aired on October 15, 2009, followed up one of Kellogg's Special K nutritional claims, namely the addition of iron. The show provided evidence that the iron was not nutritional ionic iron - as it occurs in natural foods like spinach - but was in fact metallic iron. A Kellogg's telephone helpdesk employee was not willing to discuss the ingredients of their products in general, claiming it was a company secret, although in the show, the company was not confronted with the findings. The nutritional experts in the show (a university professor and a general practitioner) agreed that actual metallic iron should not be part of a diet, speculating that it might damage organs. After the airing, the Dutch food authority nuanced the claims made in the TV program, claiming there are no health risks as long as Kellogg's stays within the legal limits. They also challenged the claim that the cereal could contain 'shredded bikes', and responded that iron powder is suitable for human consumption.
The evidence provided during the show followed David Catz's description of an experiment by Dr. Babu George, Sacred Heart University, in which iron is extracted from cereals. The description dates from 1984. As a result of this experiment being published and inquiries being made to the manufacturers, some companies have replaced the metallic iron in their products with an iron compound such as iron (III) phosphate, also called ferric phosphate.
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- Meikle, James; Harding, Luke (2004-08-12). "Denmark bans Kellogg's vitamins". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
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- [dead link]
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