When you think about malnutrition, heart wrenching images of extremely unhappy looking, thin, bony and famished individuals come to mind.
Some years ago, while working as the Chief Dietitian in a hospital in the Sultanate of Oman, I worked with many malnourished children with these exact signs and symptoms.
Fortunately the treatment was simple, education on ways in which the child’s normal, culturally acceptable diet, could be enhanced to provide additional protein and energy. This included food fortification in the form of reinforced milk using additional fats and carbohydrate, which supported these children to grow up to be healthy, vibrant kids.
Malnutrition in the form of undernutrition, across the life cycle is a concern in all countries, even New Zealand. Luckily fortified foods provide an excellent strategy in combating this problem for disabled children, youth and adults who are at risk of or are malnourished.
What is Food Fortification?
Fortifying foods is the addition of nutrients, such as macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) and/or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to an everyday food to improve nutritional quality and provide a health benefit.
It is common practice for food manufacturers to add micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) into their food products. Examples of common foods that may contain fortified nutrients include milk, salt, bread, spreads, breakfast cereals and supplementary foods and drinks.
Additionally, we may ourselves fortify the nutrient content of home prepared meals we regularly eat by the addition of healthy oils, concentrated protein and carbohydrates to foods familiar to the family.
Ideally when fortifying a food item the amount of food eaten does not increase very much at all, as the fat and protein added is in a concentrated form. For example, the protein fortifier is generally a refined protein powder and the oil component a healthy and tasteless plant based oil. This is important as many people at risk of malnutrition are unable to eat large quantities of foods and smaller concentrated meal items are better tolerated.
For some who may be underweight or have increased nutritional needs (possibly due to the consequences of a permanent disability, acute illness or chronic disease), additional calories in the form of a high energy and high protein diet may be required to keep them well nourished. Simply adding additional ingredients to meals, for example, butter or grated cheese and cream to scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes, can help bulk up the nutrient content of meals without the person having to eat increased amounts of food to get the same nutritional advantage.
Food fortification overcomes the barriers to individuals accessing a range of nutrients which may be a lower concentration in normal meals, when the form of nutrient is not easily absorbed or when a certain public health issue needs to be addressed with food fortification.
Consuming fortified foods is an easy solution and supports a normalised approach to meeting increased nutrient needs and improving health. It fills in nutrient gaps that may be present in the individual’s normal eating pattern, reducing the need to eat additional amounts of foods to obtain the same nutritional benefit.
Take a look at The Pure Foods listing here on Eldernet.