Preventing Micronutrient Deficiencies Through Food Fortification: All You Need To Know
Billions worldwide are affected by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets. Micronutrient deficiency can have significant health impacts.
An insufficient level of vitamin A, for example, is a leading cause of preventable blindness, iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia, and a lack of zinc harms the immune system.
But a team at Canada’s top university has unveiled a promising solution – fortifying staple foods with iron and other nutrients. Researchers have been experimenting with salt and even tea.
Early Pilots In India Proven Successful
At the University of Toronto, Professor Levente Diosady and his team have spent decades working on a way to fortify salt with iron and iodine. And early pilots have proven successful.
In India, almost a third of the 3.5 million schoolchildren that took part in a 2004 study – with 85% initially found to be anaemic – had been cured after eight months.
“There are around 50 to 60 million people in India who are receiving double fortified salt,” said Diosady, stressing the cost per person is … relatively trivial at around 25c per person, per year.”
Microencapsulation To Fortify Salt With Iodine And Iron
When Diosady first combined iron and iodine in salt, the two reacted with each other and the iodine evaporated. The team had to find a way to separate the two to prevent a reaction.
The solution was microencapsulation. It essentially means coating the iron particles with a barrier of vegetable fat to prevent them from reacting with the iodine.
Once the challenge was solved, the team experimented with folic acid, zinc and vitamin B12, encountering unique obstacles along the path. But they found a way to get around the problem.
Good Progress With Iron-fortified Black Tea
Like salt, Diosady has also experimented with tea because of its universal appeal, particularly in developing countries. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Adding iron to tea makes it turn an unappealing blue but the team has now made good progress with iron-fortified black tea in terms of the taste, colour and texture.
Starting his career in chemical engineering in the 1970s, Diosady believes engineers can play a substantial role in solving global challenges and ushering in social change.