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Food fortification

Food fortification is the public health policy of adding micronutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to foodstuffs to ensure that minimum dietary requirements are met.

Simple diets based on staple foods with little variation are often deficient in certain nutrients, either because they are not present in sufficient amounts in the soil of a region, or because of the inherent inadequacy of the diet. Addition of micronutrients to staples and condiments can prevent large-scale deficiency diseases in these cases.

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[edit] Rationale

Several ranges of food supplements are recognised:

  • additives which repair a deficit to "normal" levels
  • additives which appear to enhance a food
  • supplements taken in addition to the normal diet

Many physicians[who?] today disagree with the premise that foodstuffs need supplementation[citation needed], but accept that - for example - added calcium may provide benefit, or that adding folic acid may correct a nutritional deficiency especially in pregnant women[citation needed].

On a more controversial level, but well founded in scientific basis[citation needed], is the science of using foods and food supplements to achieve a defined health goal. A common example of this use of food supplements is the extent to which body builders will use amino acid mixtures, vitamins and phytochemicals to enhance natural hormone production, increase muscle and reduce fat.

Moving on from this reasonably accepted usage, there is increasing evidence for the use of food supplements in established medical conditions. This nutritional supplementation using foods as medicine (nutraceuticals) has been effectively used in treating disorders affecting the immune system up to and including cancers[citation needed]. This goes beyond the definition of "food supplement", but should be included for the sake of completeness.

[edit] Food supplements

There are several main groups of food supplements which can be considered:

[edit] Examples of fortified foods

Iodised salt has been used in the United States since before World War II.

Folic acid is added to flour in many industrialized countries, and has prevented a significant number of neural tube defects in infants.[1] It is, however, not uniform in its application, with more intake of folic acid through fortified flour among those who were already receiving high amounts through their diet.[2]

Niacin has been added to bread in the USA since 1938 (when voluntary addition started), a programme which substantially reduced the incidence of pellagra.[3]

Vitamin D is added to a few foods (especially margarine).

Fluoride salts are added to water and toothpastes to hypothetically prevent tooth decay. Water fluoridation is a controversial topic in various segments of the general population, due to the fact that the only benefits of fluoride are through contacting the teeth, meanwhile internally ingesting it has potential negative health effects.

Calcium is frequently added to fruit juices, carbonated beverages and rice.

"Golden rice" is a variety of rice which has been genetically modified to produce beta carotene.

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