MONTREAL -— Three quarters of Americans believe vitamin D plays either a great or moderate role in maintaining health, according to a recent survey.

Angus Reid Strategies conducted the survey of 1,011 people across the United States on behalf of Lallemand Inc.

Among those responding, only 1% believe vitamin D plays no role in health.

Interest in vitamin D has been driven by recent research indicating the nutrient plays a larger role in health than previously believed and that many consumers, young and old, are not consuming adequate levels of vitamin D. Fortification of grain-based foods with vitamin D has been suggested by a number of nutritionists.

Milk was identified in the survey as the most common food source of vitamin D, followed by yogurt, orange juice and cereals. Health benefits that respondents said they associate with vitamin D are osteoporosis and fracture risk (45%); cancer (19%); cardiovascular disease (18%); influenza (11%); and diabetes (10%).

While respondents said taste and price were the principal drivers of buying decisions, 35% of consumers said vitamin fortification was a top factor influencing decisions, a higher percentage than for low fat (30%) or low sodium (24%).

The survey found that consumers preferred bread that was naturally rich in vitamins to fortified bread.

Lallemand has responded to increased interest in vitamin D by developing yeast that naturally contains the nutrient. The company offers a range of yeast products allowing customers to incorporate 25 I.U. of vitamin D, equating to 6.25% of recommended daily intake, per 100 grams of bread.