Targeting demographics with vitamin D

by Jeff Gelski
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Vitamin D
A required listing on the Nutrition Facts Panel may raise overall awareness of the vitamin.

KANSAS CITY — Food and beverage manufacturers may steer promotions to certain demographic groups after adding vitamin D to their products. For example, millennials, people interested in gluten-free items, Europeans and anybody in the United States who reads the Nutrition Facts Panel are all target demographics.

The latter group relates to the May 27 issue of the Federal Register. Among the many food labeling changes it is making, the Food and Drug Administration will require the declaration of vitamin D and potassium the Nutrition Facts Panel. The compliance date is July 26, 2018, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales and July 26, 2019, for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales.

Vitamin D is important for its role in bone development and general health, and intakes among some population groups are inadequate, according to the F.D.A. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans listed vitamin D, potassium, calcium and dietary fiber as nutrients of public health concern because low intakes are associated with health problems.

Lallemand, Montreal, points out bread may be an important source of vitamin D, because it is inexpensive, low in fat and provides a range of nutrients. The company offers a Vita D Bakers Yeast for incorporation into bread and other baked foods. The yeast is exposed to ultraviolet light (photoreaction), which transforms the sterols present in the yeast into vitamin D, without the use of any chemicals or synthetic additives.

Vitamin D bread
Fortified bread may be a convenient source of Vitamin D for some consumers.

The F.D.A. allows for the safe use of vitamin D2 bakers yeast as a source of vitamin D2 and as a leavening agent in yeast-leavened baked products at levels not to exceed 400 International Units (I.U.) of vitamin D2 per 100 grams in the finished food.

Besides the United States, Vita D yeast is contained in products sold in the United Kingdom as well. Marks & Spencer, a British multinational retailer based in London, began selling bread with vitamin D in November 2015. Each portion of bread provides at least 15% of the daily requirement of vitamin D, according to Marks & Spencer.

Like Americans, Europeans could consume more vitamin D. Its deficiency is evident throughout the European population at prevalence rates that are concerning and require action from a public health perspective, according to a study that appeared on-line Feb. 10 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study involved 55,844 Europeans.

A study appearing on-line Sept. 21 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found high levels of vitamin D inadequacy in United Kingdom adolescents. The University of Surrey in the United Kingdom led the research in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and University College Cork in Ireland. A total of 110 children between the ages of 14-18 were given varying levels of vitamin D supplements over a 20-week period in the winter.

Taryn Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Surrey, will discuss the findings at the National Osteoporosis Society Conference scheduled for Nov. 7-9 in Birmingham, England.

“The research has found that adolescence, the time when bone growth is most important in laying down the foundations for later life, is a time when vitamin D levels are inadequate,” she said. “The ODIN project (a four-year project funded by the European Union) is investigating ways of improving vitamin D intake through the diet, and since it is difficult to obtain vitamin D intakes of over 10 ug/day from food sources alone, it is looking at ways of fortifying our food to improve the vitamin D levels of the U.K. population as a whole.”

Fortitech Premixes, a business of DSM, included information about vitamin D in a report called “Strategic nutrition for millennials” that the company released this year. Intakes of vitamin D were inadequate in millennials, according to the report.

“Classic approaches to dietary enhancements with micronutrients include food enrichment and fortification as well as the use of dietary supplements,” the report said. “These product forms may be less desirable to millennials, who are more likely to value a whole foods approach to nutrition. Dietary supplement manufacturers may want to expand their range to include chewable tablets or gummy vitamins, nutrition bars, drinks and gels targeted at younger adult consumers’ nutrition gaps.”

Fortitech Premixes offers custom nutrient premixes for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.

A presentation from Packaged Facts at SupplySide West in October in Las Vegas examined the gluten-free market. Sales of gluten-free foods are forecast to reach $1,328 million in 2016, which would be up 6% from 2015. Yet sales of gluten-free foods were $837 million in 2013, which was up 86% from the previous year.

Growth in the gluten-free market thus may be slowing, and manufacturers of such products may need a positive message to go along with the gluten-free message, said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Some gluten-free products may be nutrient-challenged. Formulated specifically to complement gluten-free products, Watson Inc., West Haven, Conn., offers VitaBoost 10, a vitamin and mineral premix. Vitamin D is one of the 10 essential vitamins and minerals in the premix.

Alice Wilkinson, vice-president of nutritional innovation for Watson, spoke about protecting nutrients, including vitamin D, to meet product label claims in a 2015 presentation at SupplySide West.

Overages are one way to keep a high enough level to meet claims over the shelf life of a product, she said. Matrix encapsulation is another option. Nutrients should be added into the product as late as possible, or after as much heat as possible has been used in the processing. Packaging may help, too.

The Institute of Medicine has a recommended dietary allowance of 600 International Units (I.U.s) per day for vitamin D for people age 1-70 and 800 I.U.s for people over age 70. The F.D.A. allows for the claim that adequate calcium and vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.

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