Micronutrients and vitamins are crucial for the growth and development of the human body. Although they account for a small part of our diet, their deficiency causes underdevelopment and various ailments. Globally, more than three out of ten people suffer from vitamin and micronutrient deficiency. According to numerous statistics, nutritional deficiency was responsible for about 0.5% of all death in India.
According to the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s (FSSAI) recent analysis, preventable micronutrient deficiency is a prime public health concern. The most common nutritional deficiencies in the Indian population are vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine, iron, and folic acid. The Indian government has launched numerous programs over the past few decades to improve the nutrition levels and health of the masses. It also encourages people to use fortified food to boost nutritional levels and improve overall wellness.
What is fortified food?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food fortification is the process that improves the nutritional quality of food by deliberately adding essential micronutrients and vitamins to it.
With food fortification or enrichment, we can regain the nutrients lost during food processing or storage. Fortified foods contain micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients. They are crucial for enzymes, hormones, and various substances production, which participate in growth and development. Our bodies require small quantities (less than 100 mg/day) of these micronutrients.
What are the types of food fortification?
Food fortification is of the following types based on at which stage food manufacturers add micronutrients:
- Industrial or commercial fortification: This is an economical process to add nutrients to foods on mass levels. The most common commercialized fortified foods are:
- Wheat flour
- Cooking oil
- Corn meal
- Iodized salt
- Biofortification: This process involves the breeding and genetic modification of plants to increase their nutritional values.
- Home fortification: It is costlier than commercial fortification and includes:
- Micronutrient powder
- Vitamin D drops
- Soluble tablets
What are examples of fortified food?
Most people don’t consume sufficient fruits and vegetables, which leads to essential nutrient deficiencies. Iron, iodine, vitamins A, B12, D, and zinc are the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide. Food manufacturers mostly add the following nutrients to food products:
- Dietary fibers
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Iodized salt
The following are some fortified food items:
- Calcium and vitamin D-fortified milk and milk products
- Vegetable oils
- Whole grains
- Breakfast cereals and granolas
- Staple food including wheat flour, rice, maize, and cassava
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Fruit juice
- Unsweetened oatmeal
- Iodized or double-fortified salt
- Ice creams
- Unflavoured yogurt
What are the benefits of fortified foods?
The additional micronutrients may reduce many nutritional deficiencies. The following are the benefits of fortified food:
- Prevent nutritional deficiency-induced ailments: A nutritional deficiency occurs when your body doesn’t get enough nutrients, such as rickets due to vitamin D deficiency, anemia (iron deficiency), osteoporosis (calcium and vitamin D deficiency), or reproductive and nervous system ailments due to zinc deficiency. Thus, fortified food helps reduce rates of nutrient deficiency-related diseases.
- Beneficial in pregnancy: There is a link between zinc deficiency and high mortality and morbidity rates in mothers and newborns. Folate deficiency can cause faulty neural development in babies in the womb. Even if you eat sufficient food during pregnancy, you still develop nutrient deficiency. Therefore, consuming fortified food during pregnancy can lower the risks of numerous congenital deformities in babies and improves the mother and baby’s health.
- Help in children’s growth and development: It is an evident-based fact that deficiency of iron, zinc, and vitamins A and D causes growth problems. Therefore, including fortified foods or micronutrient supplements in the growing phase have a positive physical and mental growth response among children.
- Fulfill dietary requirements: People who are strict vegetarians, vegans, lactose-intolerant, or other diet-related conditions have poor micronutrient levels, which causes various ailments. Adding fortified foods to your diet can fulfill your nutrients requirement and improves your overall health.
- Helpful for elderlies: With aging, our digestive system absorbs fewer nutrients, causing a nutritional deficiency. Adding fortified food to the diet help maintain healthy nutrient levels for stronger bones, better digestion, and healthy organ functioning.
What are the disadvantages of fortified foods?
The following are a few limitations of the fortified food:
- Consuming fortified foods with unprocessed food may increase the risk of nutrient overdose.
- Eating only fortified food and ignoring fruits and vegetables can cause low nutrition. Unprocessed foods contain antioxidants and plant-based bioactive compounds, which protect us from various chronic diseases and inflammatory conditions.
- Fortified foods contain higher calories than whole foods. Therefore, processed fortified food can cause overeating and gradual weight gaining.
Fortified foods can fulfill our body’s nutrient demand for healthy well-being. But, you should include these foods without compromising healthy food items such as consuming fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds.