The science of immunity: Why food fortification means better health and greater convenience for consumers

The pandemic pushed health and immunity to the forefront of everyone’s mind. In 2022, research by FMCG Gurus shows that 66% of consumers (across regions and age groups) still plan to address their immune health. Below, we discuss the science behind our immune systems, explore the value of fortification in tackling immune gaps, and explain how DSM can help manufacturers fortify food and beverage products with key vitamins and minerals – bringing multiple benefits to consumers.

Many consumers are aware of the importance of immunity: in a DSM survey, 71% of respondents linked it to defense against pathogens, and 59% to falling sick less frequently.1 But that doesn’t mean people always know how immunity works – nor what they can do to support their own immune systems.

The three lines of defense

The human immune system has three layers. First, the physical barrier of our skin, lungs, and digestive tract, which stops pathogens entering the body. Second, our innate immunity, which indiscriminately attacks any pathogens that do enter. Third, the immunity we acquire over time, which learns from exposure to pathogens and attacks them more specifically and efficiently.

So, how can we protect this complex immune system? There are some factors we can’t influence, from our genetics to our environment. But there are other factors we can modify to give our bodies the best chance of fighting off pathogens – such as exercise, sleep, stress, and, of course, nutrition.

Nutrients like vitamins and minerals play a role in strengthening all three lines of immune defense. Vitamin A, for instance, is more important for the first line, while vitamins C and D are more involved in the second and third lines.

Mind the immune gap

Unfortunately, not everyone gets the nutrients they need. Take vitamin D: our skin can absorb it from sunlight, but people in many parts of the world, including northern Europe, simply don’t get the necessary exposure. That’s where diet can address the immune gap: oily fish and eggs are sources of vitamin D, but less than 5% of people meet their daily dietary recommendation.1 In fact, 37% of people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency.2

Fortifying consumer favorites

To ensure the recommended intake of vitamin D from your diet, you’d need to eat one serving of salmon – or 14 eggs! – per day.4 But there’s no need to change your diet quite so drastically. There’s an easier way to hit the recommended targets: by consuming food and beverage products fortified with nutrients added during production.

Fortification of everyday foods – like cereals, dairy, and dairy alternatives – is a great complementary solution for consumers alongside a healthy, balanced diet. Recent data show that fortified foods make a meaningful contribution to people’s intake of vitamins and minerals.5 Not only does fortification boost health, but it’s also a highly convenient way to get the vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and other nutrients we need. As well as making dietary changes and taking supplements, consumers can enjoy an affordable yogurt or plant-based drink that contains the essential micronutrients to keep their immune systems strong.

Of course, fortification is also a great solution for food and beverage producers, meaning manufacturers can support people in meeting their nutritional needs for optimal health and make immunity claims on their packaging that will stand out on shelves. But what are the main challenges of fortification for immunity, and how can you overcome them?

DSM can provide immunity to fortification challenges

Legislation is the first important consideration: in some regions, the addition of certain nutrients to certain foods is prohibited. Then, there are some more practical challenges. Heating or fermenting a product during its manufacture, for example, can compromise the fortifying nutrients. In turn, the added vitamins and minerals can affect the stability, color, or taste of the final product. 

At DSM Food & Beverage, we can help you make the most of the opportunities of fortification. Whether your brand needs support on market, scientific, or regulatory research, product formulation, or packaging claims, our nutritional science and product development experts are up for any challenge. We can even help mitigate dosage risks with our nutrient premixes: high-quality blends of functional ingredients that meet your and your consumers’ exact needs.

Meet #StayStrong

Our #StayStrong immunity concept shows how DSM can support producers and consumers alike. This lactose-free milk drink and oat-based drink are both fortified with vitamins A and D; the former also contains added vitamin E and probiotics, while the latter contains added vitamin E and DHA Omega 3. They’re a great example of how we can bring our immunity solutions together to offer taste, texture, and health in one convenient product.

Do you want to help your customers to #StayStrong?

DSM’s experts have developed a delicious recipe for a lactose-free fermented milk drink with Lactobacillus paracasei and vitamins A, D and E to meet above-mentioned consumers’ needs. Called #StayStrong, it’s targeted at men and women concerned about their health and who want to strengthen their immune system. It’s ideal for in-between eating moments.

Want to know more? 

Do you want to know more about the science behind immunity?

Protecting the body against infection and disease is increasingly important. Consumers are more aware than ever before of the factors that may imbalance their immunity. There are a wide range of factors that can have an impact – and as a result, steps must be taken to ensure that its integrity can be maintained throughout life. Nutrition may help to enhance the immune system and this white paper will explore the role nutrition can play.

Want to know more?


The better-for-you trend isn’t going away any time soon – and manufacturers who can leverage the power of vitamins and minerals will win over today’s immunity-conscious consumers. Luckily, with DSM, food and beverage fortification is as easy as (vitamin) A, B, C!

Contact us to find out how our experts can help.

References

[1] DSM Global Immunity panel, Sept. 2020

[2] Mertens E, Kuijsten A, Dofkova M et al. (2018) Geographic and socioeconomic diversity of food and nutrient intakes: a comparison of four European countries. Eur J Nutr.; de Jong MH, Nawijn EL, Verkaik-Kloosterman J (2022) Contribution of fortified margarines and other plant-based fats to micronutrient intake in the Netherlands. Eur J Nutr.; Bird JK, Barron R, Pigat S, Bruins MJ. Contribution of base diet, voluntary fortified foods and supplements to micronutrient intakes in the UK. J Nutr Sci. 2022 Jun 23;11:e51. doi: 10.1017/jns.2022.47. PMID: 35836696; PMCID: PMC9241063.; Newman JC, Malek AM, Hunt KJ, Marriott BP. Nutrients in the US Diet: Naturally Occurring or Enriched/Fortified Food and Beverage Sources, Plus Dietary Supplements: NHANES 2009-2012. J Nutr. 2019 Aug 1;149(8):1404-1412. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz066. PMID: 31132112; PMCID: PMC6686054.

[3] Hilger J, Friedel A, Herr R, Rausch T, Roos F, Wahl DA, Pierroz DD, Weber P, Hoffmann K. A systematic review of vitamin D status in populations worldwide. Br J Nutr. 2014 Jan 14;111(1):23-45. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001840. Epub 2013 Aug 9. PMID: 23930771.

[4] https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-facts-database-spreadsheet.php

[5] Bird JK, Barron R, Pigat S, Bruins MJ. Contribution of base diet, voluntary fortified foods and supplements to micronutrient intakes in the UK. J Nutr Sci. 2022 Jun 23;11:e51. doi: 10.1017/jns.2022.47. PMID: 35836696; PMCID: PMC9241063.; Newman JC, Malek AM, Hunt KJ, Marriott BP. Nutrients in the US Diet: Naturally Occurring or Enriched/Fortified Food and Beverage Sources, Plus Dietary Supplements: NHANES 2009-2012. J Nutr. 2019 Aug 1;149(8):1404-1412. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz066. PMID: 31132112; PMCID: PMC6686054.

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Published on

30 September 2022

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