Food fortification is a technique used by food manufacturers and Dietitians in order to maximise the nutritional value of the processed foods (bread, cereal, convenience foods) we eat. Micronutrient malnutrition is one of the main burdens in international health and wellbeing, so much so that about 10 years ago iodine, iron, vitamin A and zinc deficiency were flagged as some the main health risk factors in the world! Micronutrient deficiencies effect an estimated 2 billion people around the world today! These deficiencies reduce your resistance to disease and infection and will significantly hinder your rate of recovery, they raise your chances of suffering from metabolic disorders such as Diabetes or thyroid dysfunction. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent mineral deficiency in the world today, especially in the menstruating female population and heavily exercising males (Allen, Benoist, Dary et al. 2006).
Vary your diet!
Part of the micronutrient malnutrition problem has stemmed from the increased consumption of processed and convenience foods which are notoriously low in nutrients, particularly micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Granted it’s not always possible to get all of the nutrition you need from food in its original form at the best of times, and many of our diets are simply not varied enough to deliver everything we need. Consequently manufacturers make a conscious effort to add nutrients to the foods they produce, in fact in some cases they are even legally obligated to. One of the first and main forms of fortification was the addition of iodine to salt in a process known as iodisation, this was an initiative in response to low iodine levels in the general public. Other examples of where manufacturers fortify their food (add nutrients) include Folic acid in cereals for its role in preventing neural tube defects in newborn babies (if the mother ingests it). Cereals are also fortified with thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Margarine was fortified with vitamin A and milk with vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium, whilst foods targeted at young children were fortified with iron to reduce the onset of iron deficiency anaemia. The addition of nutrients to foods allows the public to consume the requisite amount of certain micronutrients without having to drastically change their normal eating pattern.
Difference between fortification and enrichment
So what’s the difference between fortification and enrichment? Enrichment (as the name implies) is the practice of enriching a foodstuff through the addition of extra calories, nutrients, vitamins and minerals in order to maximise the nutrition one receives. Examples of enrichment include adding a protein powder to some porridge, adding some crushed nuts and full cream milk to some mash potato, stirring some omega oils into soup or pouring it onto your veg. Enrichment is something we can do ourselves, whereas fortification is a practice adopted by the government and food manufacturers.
Enrichment for the bulking season
With the bulking season upon us, enrichment is a technique many of you may be encouraged to apply. It’s not always easy to get the calories you need in order to induce growth, especially if you train 5-6 days a week! So handy ways to increase the nutrition you get without necessarily increasing the amount you have to physically consume is great. The addition of dried skimmed milk powder to full cream milk effectively doubles the nutrition you receive per serving, whilst stirring 20-30g of grated cheese into your mashed sweet potato or butternut squash and veg soup is a delicious way of increasing the nutritional value of the dish.
Allen, L., Benoist, B, D., Dary, O., & Hurrell, R. (2006). Guidelines on food fortification with micronutrients. World Health Organisation.