How is Milk Fortified & What are its Health Benefits?
Food is fortified to add micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals to it. The main purpose of fortification is to reduce the rate of deficiencies and diseases which occur if the food is lacking the nutrient requirement.
It is a mandatory procedure in certain cereals, salt, and even milk because of the concern over public health.
How is Milk Fortified?
Milk can be fortified with various nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, iron and folic acid. It is cow’s milk which is fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.
To fortify milk, vitamin D3 and vitamin A palmitate are added as they are the most absorbable form of these nutrients.(1, 2) Being heat resistant these vitamins are added before the pasteurization and homogenization process as heat kills the harmful bacteria in the process.(3, 4)
Heat can destroy B vitamins which are therefore added later. Certain manufacturers choose to fortify milk with additional nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. Soy and almond milk are plant-based and undergo a process of fortification to match the nutrient level of cow’s milk.
Benefits of Fortified Milk
There are several benefits offered by fortified milk as it contains numerous additional nutrients.
Prevents Nutritional Deficiencies
Fortification and enrichment of milk help in preventing nutritional deficiencies as it helps fill nutrient gaps in the diet.
The process of fortification was first developed in order to prevent nutrition deficiencies such as rickets (weakening of bones) due to vitamin D deficiency.(5)
Fortified Milk Promotes Healthy Growth In Children
Fortified milk help in preventing iron deficiency anemia in children, which is a common problem in developing countries. Such regions fortify milk with iron and other nutrients such as zinc and B vitamins.
A study found that foods fortified with iron, zinc, and vitamin A decreased the occurrence of anemia by 50% in children younger than 5 years.(7)
One more study found that children who consumed more iron, zinc and vitamin A through fortified milk had higher levels of vitamin D and iron levels than those drinking unfortified cow’s milk.(8)
Fortified milk also improves brain function thereby improving academic performance and motivation in older children.(9)
Improves Bone Health
Milk is naturally rich in calcium and phosphorus and bone is made of these two nutrients. Therefore those drinking even unfortified milk have strong bones.
However, vitamin D fortified milk, in particular, is excellent for bone health as this nutrient helps the body to absorb more calcium. Appropriate calcium intake is necessary for preventing osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and brittle bones.
Fortified milk is an easy low-cost way to get enough calcium and also boost its absorption.(12)
Keep Up The Energy Level
Fortified milk proves to be an excellent breakfast option as it contains all the necessary nutrients to help to go through the day. It gives an energy boost and helps to keep up with the stress of work.
Fortified milk is very beneficial but there are few of the negative effects which should be considered.
Those allergic to milk should avoid dairy products completely. Those who are lactose intolerant can go for non-dairy milk alternatives such as almond and soy milk.