The more the merrier, right? Well, not according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This group recently published a report addressing fortified foods and their potential impacts on young children, the elderly and pregnant women. The report, highlighting popular vitamins and minerals, raised many questions and prompted us to dig into the truth about fortified foods. Can foods really be over-fortified?
The Takeaway: Overall, nutrition experts say overdosing is a concern that we need to pay attention to, but vitamin and mineral supplements (that we take orally in a pill or chewable form) are much more likely to be the culprit for overdosing, than fortified foods.
Best Food Facts: What can you tell us about this report?
Dr. MacDonald: Historically, foods were fortified with vitamins and minerals to address deficiencies in the population. Examples include adding iodine to salt or vitamin D to milk. Enrichment of foods has also been done to put back nutrients that were decreased by processing, including adding B vitamins and iron to white flour. But today’s store shelves are full of products that contain added nutrients to improve the quality of the foods, and to encourage consumers to buy them. So being aware of how much supplements you are consuming may be a good idea. There is potential for over-fortification, especially for children, given the wide range of foods that are being fortified, and the fact that many parents are also giving them vitamin/mineral supplements. However, whether fortified foods alone can actually create toxic levels is questionable in my view. If fortified foods are taken with supplements, especially by kids, then there could be a concern.
Dr. MacDonald suggested we reach out to Dr. Victor Fulgoni, a consultant with Nutrition Impact, LLC. Dr. Fulgoni said, “Frankly, this report has not considered the issues with the estimated average requirements of certain nutrients, especially Upper Limits (the highest average daily nutrient intake level that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population). The main issue is how to maximize meeting nutrient needs, while not having too many people exceed the Upper Limits. And, it’s important to note we do not know the risk of nutrient intake above the Upper Limits.”
Best Food Facts: The report says that nearly half of American kids age eight and younger consume potentially harmful amounts of vitamin A, zinc and niacin because of excessive food fortification, outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading marketing tactics used by food manufacturers. Is this true?