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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Food Fortification: An Effective Method to Increase Intake of Shortfall Nutrients

By Rachel Murphy

It is finally beginning to feel like spring in the Northeastern United States. The sun is shining and the days are getting longer but that does not mean that we can stop worrying about meeting our vitamin D requirements.  Vitamin D or the “sunshine vitamin” can be synthesized with sun exposure, about 15-20 minutes is needed to reach normal serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations. Sunscreen, skin color, clothing and geographical location all affect vitamin D synthesis.  In the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report vitamin D is named as a ‘shortfall’ nutrient and higher levels of vitamin D intake via fortified foods or supplements is highlighted. 

In the US and many other countries vitamin D fortification of food is voluntary.  Black and colleagues examined vitamin D intake over a 10 year period among adults 18-64y in Ireland.  They examined the effect of vitamin D from fortified and non-fortified foods and supplements on vitamin D intake.  Overall vitamin D intake increased slightly over time from a median of 2.9ug to 3.5ug. Comparatively, the RDA for this age group is nearly 5 times higher (15ug/d).  Both fortified foods and vitamin D supplements increased the intake of vitamin D.  Vitamin D supplement use was especially impactful; reducing the prevalence of inadequate vitamin D by 10%.   

The authors conclude that voluntary fortification has had a measurable but small impact on overall vitamin D intake. They then used modelling to show that expanding fortification of food with vitamin D could be an effective way to increase intake at the low end of the population without increasing the risk of exceeding the tolerable upper intake level. This empirically driven approach is an excellent example of responsible nutrition and will hopefully silence critics of food fortification.  

Main Citation

Thomas EA, Higgins J, Bessesen DH, McNair B, Cornier M. Black LJ, Walton J, Flynn A, Cashman KD, Kiely M.  Small Increments in vitamin D intake by Irish Adults over a Decade Show That Strategic Initiatives to Fortify the Food Supply Are Needed. J Nutr. Epub Mar 11 2015, doi:10.3945/jn.114.209106

Other Citations

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Available from: