Carrying the Good Stuff

by Jeff Gelski
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Whether as vessels for vitamins or carriers of calcium, grain-based foods can take on prominent roles in the fortification arena. Some nutritionists are pushing for mandatory fortification of vitamin D in bread. That campaign emerges while statistics continue to show the health benefits of folic acid fortification. Calcium applications, where several options are available, can lead to marketing opportunities, too.

"The grain industry is very focused on whole grain and fiber," said Barbara Heidolph, market development manager, food, for ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis, MO. "At the same time that they look at these key initiatives, there is an even greater need to incorporate fortification, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid and vitamins."

Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis, or porous bones, which affects more than 28 million Americans, according to the International Food Information Council. Osteoporosis is most common in people over age 50, IFIC observed.

Neural tube defects, or serious birth defects of the brain and spine, have declined by more than 25% since the Food and Drug Administration mandated folic acid fortification of enriched grains in 1998.

After deciding to promote foods for their content of folic acid, calcium or other fortifying ingredients, companies can target more than just pregnant women and the elderly. A report released this year by BuzzBack Market Research, New York, NY, showed 31% of teen-agers and young adults cared about calcium as a nutritional aspect, ranking it ahead of vitamin C (29%) and dietary fiber (21%). The 2006 report called "Teen 101: Exploring Teen Lifestyles and Nutrition" included 570 people from the ages of 13 to 24.

Consider fortifying more than just bread, too. In the BuzzBack study, chips ranked as the most popular "must have" snack at 24%, with Doritos the most frequently mentioned brand of snack. Pizza ranked as the top "must have" food at 21%.

Finally, consider different ways of fortifying grain-based foods. Encapsulation can prove useful in three ways, said Declan Roche, director of new technology platforms for Kerry Americas, Beloit, WI. Encapsulation can keep ingredients from interacting with other ingredients. It can protect the finished product’s flavor from bitter notes such as those from the B vitamins, including folic acid.

For the third benefit, encapsulation can make certain the fortifying nutrient survives the manufacturing and production process and remains effective throughout the product’s shelf life. Encapsulation can allow the nutritional components of a bar to last throughout a 9-month shelf life.


Fortifying foods successfully means knowing how different vitamins and minerals interact. Research at Creighton University in Omaha, NE, shows a need to consume a balance of calcium and phosphorus, according to Ms. Heidolph. "As the food industry has gone to using calcium sources that do not contain phosphorus, they have developed an imbalance in the body, which, although there may be significant calcium intake, may not lead to strong bones due to a lack of phosphorus for construction of bones and teeth," she said.

ICL this year introduced Levona calcium acid pyrophosphate. The new leavening agent provides delayed, controlled release, a clean flavor profile, excellent volume and texture, according to Ms. Heidolph.

Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, NJ, offers Cal-Rise, a slow-acting leavening system that includes monocalcium phosphate and calcium acid pyrophosphate. Cal-Rise may replace sodium agents in leavening. At 18% calcium, the product offers bakers an opportunity to create finished food products that qualify as a good source of calcium.

Tate & Lyle, PLC, London, UK, offers an Enrich line of cereal bar ingredients that allows bar manufacturers to reach a good source of calcium claim, said Doris Dougherty, a senior food scientist for Tate & Lyle based in Decatur, IL. The Enrich cereal bar product also comes with B vitamins and vitamins A, C and E, she added.

Bioavailability in calcium applications can vary, Kerry Americas’ Mr. Roche said. Calcium additions generally cost about a half cent per serving of finished product. Calcium gluconate is more expensive, but it offers more bioavailability. Calcium carbonate or tricalcium phosphate may appeal to cost-conscious food manufacturers, but their bioavailability is not as good, he said.

Ms. Heidolph said calcium bioavailability depends on a number of factors such as the type of finished food product. Calcium deposition is dependent on a number of factors, including calcium concentration, proteins, hormones and vitamins.

"Most calcium sources are available at the low pH of the gut," Ms. Heidolph said. "The exception would be those bound by fiber. There is general confusion about bioavailability and solubility. They are not the same."

Tricalcium phosphate provides the optimum balance of calcium and phosphorus, Ms. Heidolph said. Calcium carbonate also can be used, but it can impact the final pH of the product and contribute to the overall ash, which may affect color of the crumb.


Vitamin D consumption can help with calcium absorption, according to those in the industry who wish to mandate vitamin D fortification in bread. Though milk is fortified with vitamin D, many consumers still do not consume enough of it.

"Because dairy is not consumed widely and evenly across the population, African-Americans consume less milk and vitamin D than Caucasians," said Richard Forshee, Ph.D., deputy director and director of research at the Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park, MD. "Focusing all the fortification on one food type risks missing subgroups who do not consume enough."

Dr. Forshee was involved in a study that indicated consumers of wholewheat bread would benefit if the bread were fortified with vitamin D. Because many consumers can afford bread, it makes sense to fortify it with vitamin D, said Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D., a nutrition professor at The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN. She said vitamin D deficiency is associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Vitamin D consumption also might fight cancer. Serum levels of vitamin D were significantly higher in patients with early stage breast cancer compared with patients with locally advanced and/or metastatic disease, according to research from Imperial College London in the UK. The research provides credence to the role of vitamin D in slowing down breast cancer progression.

Another study by researchers from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and the Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, MA, showed that higher intakes of vitamin D were associated with lower risks of pancreatic cancer.


When FDA mandated folic acid fortification of enriched grains eight years ago, the ruling left out whole grains. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 brought on a call from the American Bakers Association to enrich whole grains with folic acid. The guidelines call for consumers to eat three servings of whole grain per day, which might reduce their intake of enriched grains and, thus, folic acid, according to ABA.

Earlier this year, Gruma S.A. de C.V. said it had a goal of enriching its US corn products, including flour and tortillas, with folic acid. The company, based at Monterrey, Mexico, joined with the Spina Bifida Association, the National Council of La Raza and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to help fight spina bifida. The effort will target the US Hispanic population, the highest risk group for spina bifida and the least likely to consume folic acid.

"The best way to ensure women take folic acid every day is to fortify the most common food products," said Janet Murguia, president and c.e.o. of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights and advocacy organization based in the US. "Gruma’s and Wal-Mart’s efforts will offer a huge opportunity to put folic acid into the diets of millions of Hispanic women who may not otherwise consume it."

Some research, however, has investigated whether people actually can consume too much folic acid. Findings from a study in Sweden showed low folate levels, instead of high levels, may protect against colorectal cancer. The subjects were 226 cases and 437 matched referents from the population-based Northern Sweden Health and Disease Cohort.

"Our findings suggest a decreased colorectal cancer (CRC) risk in subjects with low folate status," the Swedish researchers wrote in their conclusions. "This possibility of a detrimental component to the role of folate in carcinogenesis could have implications in the ongoing debate in Europe concerning mandatory folate fortification of foods."

Ireland’s government has studied folic acid and found benefits. The National Committee on Folic Acid Food Fortification in Ireland this year recommended mandatory fortification of most white, brown and wholemeal breads on sale in the country.

"A staple food such as bread is the ideal food to fortify because it meets all the necessary criteria of being consumed regularly and in sufficient quantities, encouraged as part of a healthy diet, technically amenable to fortification, and can offer consumer choice by omitting some varieties from the fortification program," said Maureen Lynott, chair of the committee.

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