Q. How are nutrients in fortified or enriched foods different from nutrients in dietary supplements?


A. Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSC, Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, answers: “Some foods are enriched to replace nutrients lost during processing (an example would be thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin added back to refined grain products). In other cases, foods are fortified with nutrients that tend to be underconsumed (for example vitamin D added to fluid milk, iodine to salt, and folic acid to refined grain products).

“The nutrients in fortified or enriched foods are similar to, if not the same as, those in dietary supplements. The difference has to do mostly with the amount. Under usual circumstances, there is little risk of overconsuming individual nutrients from enriched or fortified foods. Regarding supplements, either for single nutrients or a multi-nutrient preparation, the absolute levels in each dose vary widely and some can be very high. Long term exposure to very high doses of certain nutrients can have adverse consequences. Excess intake of vitamin A, for example, has been associated with increased risk of bone fractures, and too much vitamin D is associated with increased risk of kidney stones.

“For healthy individuals, a healthy, well-balanced dietary pattern should supply all the necessary essential nutrients we need. Foods are fortified and enriched to help avoid shortfalls and ensure adequate intake in areas where the U.S. diet traditionally falls short.”



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