New research raises concerns about increasingly high nutrient intake levels from fortified beverages, foods and supplements.
Along with the growing dietary supplement industry, food and beverage fortification is expanding exponentially, resulting in regular consumption of nutrient intakes greatly exceeding recommended daily intakes and possibly reaching unsafe levels. Commonly added nutrients include B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, and D.
In a recent study, researchers in Canada evaluated micronutrient levels in 66 energy drinks, vitamin waters and juices sold in Canadian supermarkets following regulatory changes that have allowed for the expansion of the fortified beverage market. The nutrient levels and marketing terms used on product labels were evaluated for products before the regulatory changes were put into effect (2010-2011), and after the changes (2014). Of the 66 products evaluated pre-regulatory change, 46 were re-evaluated post-change in 2014. Most of the products evaluated (83%) were manufactured or distributed by Coca-Cola or PepsiCo, both of which distribute products globally.
The researchers found that on average, beverages were fortified with 4.5 nutrients, most commonly including vitamins B6, B12, C and niacin. Most of the beverages contained 3 or more nutrients at levels above required levels, commonly B vitamins. Eighteen of the evaluated beverages contained triple the estimated average requirements of vitamin B6.
When comparing data on actual nutritional deficiencies in the Canadian population to the nutrients being added to these beverages, the nutrient fortifications did not line up with nutritional needs. There is data suggesting some vitamin C and A deficiencies in young adults; however, only 59% of the evaluated beverages contained vitamin C and only 24% contained vitamin A. The marketing tactics used to promote fortified beverages were largely consistent from 2010 to 2014, and often used terms to suggest their ability to enhance performance.
The authors concluded that there is little evidence to suggest the need for nutrient fortified beverages. Given the growing fortified food and beverage market, there is a need to strongly evaluate the nutrient content of these products to ensure consumers are not exposed to overly high levels. In addition to this recent Canadian study, a study publish in July of 2014 highlighted the risks associated with overly high nutrient intakes due to the growing fortified food, beverage and supplement markets, as well as the need for new regulations.
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