by Sujatha Nanjundeshwara | 09 NOV 2017
Globally about 3 to 5 million deaths occur each year because of twin killers; under nutrition and nutrition deficiency. From the 1930s and 1940s, fortified and enriched foods, boosted with extra vitamins and minerals were introduced to combat this menace.
In fact, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is implementing a process to add iron and calcium to wheat flour and salt respectively. But the food industry is up in arms compliance to FSSAI would mean they would need to hire specialists as well as invest extra in raw materials like chemicals to carry out this process.
But what are the benefits and risks of food fortification process itself? Let’s look at them here:
Myth 1: All of us need to eat fortified food.
Not true. As nutritionist Sujatha Stephen says, fortified food is only for that category of people who have been diagnosed with nutritional deficiencies, which they have been unable to beat with natural food. In fact, as she says, for most of us, a balanced diet containing vegetables, whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, lean meat, fish and dairy products suffices.
Myth 2: Fortified foods help the body to easily absorb micronutrients.
Again, as a senior nutritionist says on the condition of anonymity, there is no data to clarify this point. As she explains, chemicals are used for fortification and whether it works and really helps the body to absorb iron, vitamins or minerals is yet to be studied.
Myth 3: Fortified foods have zero side effects.
False; fortified foods can lead you to put on excess weight and may also end up increasing the content of minerals which are already on your food plate.
Myth 4: Fortified food can be consumed without medical supervision.
In any scenario, self prescription is not advisable. As a senior food in charge of Telangana states, presently there is a huge amount of confusion on which categories of people actually require fortified food. As he explains, there is a critical need to identify these people and for that to happen, a lot of training and coordination between healthcare workers and the food industry as a whole should be initiated.
While fortified foods are supposed to carry several benefits, excessive consumption of micronutrients can lead to toxic side effects; hence you need to move ahead cautiously based on appropriate medical advice.
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