FORTIFIED FOODS: ARE THEY HEALTHY FOR YOU?

Fortified foods are foods or food products to which extra nutrients have been added.

Fortification of foods is used to control micronutrient diseases. The scientific rationale includes technology stability, interactions and effectiveness for fortifying staple foods which was developed in the early decades of 1990’s.

In 1920’s and 1940’s, fortification of salt with iodine, wheat flour with iron, vitamin B1, B2 and B3, fortification of milk with vitamin A & B and margarine with vitamin A & B was fully evaluated and included as a part of national intervention program in several countries.

Staple foods such as wheat flour, milk and margarine have been considered for fortification. Recently fortification of flour with folic acid has been done to overcome vitamin deficiency.

Other alternative vehicles for 1 or more micro-nutrients are also been considered such as rice, oil, tea, maize, weaning foods and foods for supplemented feeding programs.

The advantage of food fortification is that the results are fast.

The nutrient intake can be improved immediately and the micronutrient status can be evaluated.

When the staple food that is consumed regularly by majority of population is used as fortification vehicle, high population coverage can be achieved.

 

    CRITRERIA FOR FORTIFICATION

 

The intake of food for a particular nutrient should be stable and uniform.

The upper and lower levels of intake should be known.

Food selected as a vehicle should be consumed by a large proportion of the population at risk for most part of the year.

Essential nutrients must be present in amounts that are neither excessive nor insignificant taking into account intake from other dietary sources.

The amount of essential nutrients must be sufficient to correct or prevent the deficiency when food is consumed in normal amounts by the population at risk.

The nutrient added should not adversely affect the metabolism of any other nutrient.

The nutrient added should be sufficiently stable in the food under customary conditions of packing, storing, distribution and use.

The nutrient added should be physiologically available from the food.

The nutrient added should not impart undesirable characteristic of food and should not usually shorten the shelf life.  Example: double fortified salt, if added during cooking changes to blue colour.

The technology and processing facilities should be available to permit addition of nutrient in satisfactory manner.

Additional cost to the consumer resulting from fortification should be reasonable.

 

FORTIFICATION TECHNOLOGIES:

 

Water soluble vitamins can be dissolved in water and then added to liquid foods such as dairy products, fruit juices and beverages or they can be mixed in powdered form with foods such as wheat flour, corn starch, instant powdered beverages and dry milk.

The fat soluble vitamins can be directly added to foods such as oil, margarine, butter, mayonnaise and reconstituted milk.

The industry has been able to microencapsulate the fat soluble vitamins in order to get them into water soluble powdered form and to protect them from oxygen and other components of food. These powdered form can be mixed with water soluble vitamins and added to food.

 

 FORTIFIED FOODS: ARE THEY HEALTHY?

 

Food fortification with vitamins and minerals is one of the most effective method to improve health and prevent nutritional deficiencies.

Fortified foods can fill certain nutrient gaps, yet they do not replace the need for a healthy, balanced diet comprising a variety of foods. Fortification can be self-limiting due to high levels of additional nutrients altering the taste and appearance of a food.

 A diet providing the optimal level and balance of nutrients is potentially worthless if it does not look or taste good enough to eat. However, in general fortified foods users show better nutrient adequacy levels attained through commonly consumed foods compared to non users. This effect may be related to a higher nutritional awareness among users of fortified foods.

A nutrition professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, also points out that adding nutrients to a food can encourage people to perceive it as unequivocally healthy, whether it’s low-fat and fibre-rich oatmeal that’s been fortified or a similarly enhanced bag of potato chips packed with fat and bereft of any naturally occurring nutrients that the oatmeal has. “The fact that brands have gone to the trouble to add this stuff sends an implicit message that the finished product is desirable, and that’s just not always the case,” she says. “Sports drinks are an example. The sugar they contain is so much worse than the added vitamins. But that information gets obscured.”

HENCE, TAKING THESE FORTIFIED FOODS IN MODERATION IS THE ONLY KEY THAT WILL HELP YOU TO ACHIEVE ITS EALTH BENEFITS.

 

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