In considering ways for baking to enhance its contributions to the nation's health, hardly any opportunity matches the potential of providing adequate vitamin D intake.

Research published last week suggests that the vitamin D situation is worse than suspected. More than half the nation’s children are taking in too little. Less exposure to sunshine, increased use of sun block and diminished consumption of milk are among factors cited by researchers. At the same time, a new and rapidly growing body of evidence suggests adequate vitamin D is important to preventing a range of chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers.

Further study is under way, and bakers should watch this situation closely. In many respects, vitamin D and grain-based foods could become the perfect match. Virtually the entire population could benefit from more vitamin D and no food group has broader household penetration than grain-based foods.

Increased vitamin D intake would reduce the incidence of many chronic conditions that have been wrongly blamed on refined grains. Yes, additional research is required. Yet, it is not far-fetched to foresee a positive situation far exceeding what has been accomplished through folic acid fortification — itself a triumph for the industry. With stakes so high, baking must not stand aside in a passive role as the vitamin D story unfolds.