Fortification of foods with additional
nutrients does have an impact on kids' intake of vitamins and minerals, but
many children and teens are still not getting adequate nutrition, according to
a new US study.
Based on a large national dietary survey,
the researchers found that without fortification, the diets of a large number
of children and teens would be nutritionally inadequate. With fortification the
picture is better, but not perfect.
"Foods with added nutrients (most
notably breakfast cereals, enriched grain foods, fluid milks) supplied
important amounts of many but not all vitamins and minerals in diets of US
children and adolescents," Louise Berner told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
Berner is a food science and nutrition
researcher at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California.
Read: What foods should I avoid?
Currently, the US Food and Drug
Administration requires some fortification of food, such as enriching refined
flour with vitamins and iron and adding vitamin A to low- and non-fat milk.
Food manufacturers may also add nutrients
to food voluntarily – some brands of orange juice, for example, are fortified
with added calcium.
Berner and colleagues wanted to find out both
how much of an impact fortification has on kids' nutrition and determine which
foods were providing the added nutrients.
The researchers used data from the National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to analyse the diets of 7 250 children
and adolescents ages 2 to 18 years old.
Berner's team looked at the types of food
eaten and any supplements taken and assessed the nutrient content of each food.
Then they assessed how nutritionally adequate each kid's diet was by seeing
whether it met Estimated Average Requirements (EAR).
The EAR is the average daily nutrient
intake level estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals
in a particular group based on age or gender.
On average, girls ages 14 to 18 years old
were most likely to fall short of the EAR for their age, while boys and girls 2
to 8 years old had the lowest rates of inadequate nutrient intakes.
Read: 5 Nutrients every child needs
No excessive intake
The study team found that fortified foods
contributed half or more of the intakes of vitamin D, thiamin, and folate to
children's diets; 20% to 47% of the intakes of vitamin A, vitamin C,
riboflavin, niacin, B-6, B-12, and iron; 12% to 18%of the intake of zinc; but
only 4.5% to 6.6% of calcium.
Even with the increased nutrients from
fortified sources, a substantial percentage of kids still had intakes of
vitamins A, C and D that were less than the EAR for their age and sex.
The fortified foods also did not appear to
lead to excessive intakes of any nutrients, which is a concern others have
expressed in the past, Berner and her colleagues note in the Journal of the
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The fortified foods that provided the most
nutrients were breakfast cereals, milk and milk drinks, breads, rolls and other
products made with enriched grains.
Not all fortified foods are healthy foods
"This research study provides a good
picture of the contribution of fortified foods to kids' diets in the US,"
Berner said, "but, it should not be misinterpreted as a dietary
recommendation to consumers – that was not the intent of the research.
Read: 10 foods rich in calcium
"So many unfortified foods, including
fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and so forth, are critically important parts of
healthful diets yet are often under-consumed," Berner said. "But,
selectively, I think it makes sense – for example, choosing a fortified
breakfast cereal instead of an unfortified one," she said.
Berner and her co-authors advise consumers
to obtain nutrients primarily from foods that are naturally nutrient-dense.
And, they point out, not all fortified foods are healthy foods.
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