Doctor: Revised vitamin D levels may present marketing opportunity

by Staff
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CHICAGO — Recommendations expected later this year from the Institute of Medicine followed by some clever marketing may lead to a big hit for vitamin D fortification in food, said Michael Holick, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Holick chose the word “home run” when he spoke Feb. 27 in “The Vitamin D Solution: An Opportunity for the Baking Industry,” which was part of an annual innovations in baking seminar presented by Lallemand, Inc.

Dr. Holick wrote the book “The Vitamin D Solution.” Lallemand offers bakers yeast fortified with vitamin D.
Dr. Holick said he is hopeful an Institute of Medicine committee will promote at least doubling vitamin D recommendations from their current levels. He said he personally would propose levels about four or five times higher than the current levels.

“The recommendations made by the National Institute of Medicine in 1997 are totally inadequate,” Dr. Holick said.

If higher recommendations are unveiled, Dr. Holick said he would expect the pasta industry to start adding vitamin D in greater frequency. Vitamin D is stable up to 250 degrees Centigrade (482 degrees Fahrenheit), he said, and it has virtually no effect on flavor because so little of it is needed in formulations.

Combining vitamin D and calcium in baked foods may present problems, he said, since calcium might have a negative effect on a product’s taste. The government allows the following health claims: “Adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis” or “Adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.”

Wendy Dahl, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, said baked foods seem like an ideal solution for vitamin D fortification since studies show 94% of the population consumes
baked foods. Yet Dr. Dahl pointed out a 2009 Mintel survey showed only 2% of U.S. bread products are fortified with vitamin D.

Consumers may know vitamin D for its ability to strengthen bones, but Dr. Holick said scientific studies have shown beneficial effects in other areas such as breast cancer, immunity, diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure.

“If you increase your vitamin D intake, you’re less likely to die,” Dr. Holick said.

Current adequate intake (A.I.) levels for vitamin D range from 200 international units (I.U.) to 600 I.U. per day, depending on age.

Dr. Holick personally would propose A.I. levels of somewhere between 400 to 1,000 I.U. for babies up to age 1, 1,000 to 2,000 I.U. for children age 1 to 12 and 1,500 to 2,000 I.U. for individuals over age 13.

Dr. Holick said he knows some members of the Institute of Medicine committee in charge of the new recommendations. He is hopeful the committee will recommend at least 400 I.U. for children and somewhere between 800 to 1,000 I.U. for adults. The committee’s report is expected to be released publicly before the end of the summer, according to the Institute of Medicine.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see what they come up with,” Dr. Holick said.

While sunshine is a major source of vitamin D, Dr. Holick also promotes food fortification.

U.S. regulations allow for 90 I.U. of vitamin D per 100 grams of baked foods. The Federal Register on Dec. 17 recognized a food additive petition from Lallemand to amend the food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of vitamin D2 yeast up to 400 I.U. per 100 grams of yeastraised baked foods.

If the petition is approved, bakers will have the opportunity to achieve the vitamin D levels necessary to make good source or excellent source claims, according to Lallemand, which has made all its bakers yeast a natural source of vitamin D. The company uses a process to convert plant sterols in the yeast to vitamin D.

If the petition is approved, Dr. Dahl said she could envision bakers hitting such vitamin D levels as 200 I.U. in a hamburger bun and 220 I.U. in pizza crust or a bagel.

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