Bread as a natural dietary source of vitamin D? As a more significant source of this “sunshine vitamin” than milk? Yes, when made with bakers yeast manufactured to be naturally rich in vitamin D. A leading producer of bakers yeast has rolled out this process to all its North American plants for all forms of bakers yeast, making this nutritionally significant change at no cost to its bakery customers.

Vitamin D affects calcium regulation in the body and is particularly important to bone growth and maintenance. Humans normally acquire this important vitamin through exposure of the skin to sunlight for at least 10 to 15 minutes, two or three times a week. Yet modern lifestyles and sunscreens interfere with this natural process, so most people should supplement their diets with vitamin D.

Many children in the US need more vitamin D, according to a national study published in the November issue of Pediatrics. The research, led by Jonathan Mansback, MD, of the Department of Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, drew data from a 2001-04 survey and projected suboptimal levels of vitamin D in millions of children aged 1 to 11, especially non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American children.

Low blood levels of vitamin D were linked to lower survival rates in the elderly, according to findings published in the November issue of Clinical Endocrinology. The study, done by a team of US, Dutch and Austrian scientists led by Stefan Pilz from the Medical University of Graz in Austria, looked at vitamin D levels in women aged 70 to 79. The results revealed increased risk of mortality from all causes but especially from heart disease.

Consumers know the importance of vitamin D. A survey conducted in the US in late September found that 76% of consumers believe vitamin D plays a moderate-to-great role in maintaining or improving their health. Given the same survey, Canadians and UK residents responded similarly to the question at rates of 82% and 69%, respectively. More than 1,000 US, 2,000 UK and nearly 1,000 Canadian consumers participated in the surveys, done by Angus Reid Strategies, Vancouver, BC, for Lallemand, Inc., Montreal, QB. US consumers linked vitamin D with protection against osteoporosis and fracture risk (45%), cancer (19%), cardiovascular disease (18%), influenza (11%) and diabetes (10%), among others.

Five times as many consumers said they preferred to buy bread that was naturally rich in vitamins as would prefer bread fortified with vitamins (56% to 10%). This finding correlated well with the response from more than half saying “natural ingredients” were one of the Top 5 factors influencing their purchase decisions.

In 2008, Lallemand introduced bakers yeast naturally rich in vitamin D, marketed in the US under the EagleVitaD brand by Lallemand/American Yeast Division, Memphis, TN. Its patent-pending process converts part of the natural sterols in the yeast to vitamin D by exposing the yeast to light while still maintaining the yeast’s leavening and flavoring properties.

This year, as of Aug. 20, Lallemand had equipped all its North American plants to manufacture all forms of bakers yeast to be naturally rich in vitamin D. Thus, 100 g of bread made with 1% instant dry yeast, 3% compressed yeast or 5% cream yeast will provide 25 IU or 6.25% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D in the US (12.5% in Canada). It’s not just bread that benefits, but any baked food leavened with Lallemand bakers yeasts, and the company noted no extra cost to bakeries. This fall, the company introduced VitaD Plus instant dried yeast with even higher levels of vitamin D.

Describing the company’s decision to enhance the vitamin D content of all its yeast offerings, Jean Chagnon, Lallemand’s c.e.o., said, “We believe this simple process improvement has resulted in a significant percentage of all breads and yeast-leavened goods becoming new natural sources of vitamin D at a time when the importance of this sunshine vitamin is being increasingly recognized by health professionals, public health offi cials and the general public.”