Bread fortification: vitamin D?

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 1st March 2011

margarine-butterWith most people unable to get enough vitamin D from sunlight or foods, scientists are suggesting that a new vitamin D-fortified food — bread made with high-vitamin D yeast — could fill that gap. Their study, confirming that the approach works in laboratory tests, appears in American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In Australia, FSANZ requires that margarine be fortified with vitamin D, but it remains one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the country, despite no shortage of sunlight. Bread in Australia is already fortified with both folic acid and iodine.

Connie Weaver and colleagues cite studies suggesting that up to 7 in 10 people in the United States may not get enough vitamin D, which enables the body to absorb calcium. Far from just contributing to healthy bones, however, vitamin D seems to have body-wide beneficial effects.

Vitamin D insufficiency has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, allergy in children, and other conditions. The body makes its own vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but with the risk of skin cancer and long winters, scientists have been looking for new ways to add vitamin D to the diet.

Weaver’s group did experiments with laboratory rats, a stand-in for humans in such research, that ease doubts over whether bread baked with high vitamin D yeast could be a solution. The doubts originated because yeast produces one form of the vitamin, termed vitamin D2, which has been thought to be not as biologically active as the form produced by sun, vitamin D3. They showed bread made with vitamin D2-rich yeast, fed to the laboratory rats, had effects that seemed just as beneficial as vitamin D3.

“Our results suggest that bread made with high vitamin D yeast could be a valuable new source of vitamin D in the diet,” they concluded.