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Much of the vitamin D intake in the United States and Canada is from fortified foods

Published on

09 January 2013

According to a new review, many sections of the population are still not getting enough vitamin D despite opportunities for enhancing intakes via fortified foods and supplements.

This review analyzed studies on vitamin D intake and blood concentrations in the US and Canada (1). The results showed that while 60% of vitamin D intakes in both countries come from fortified foods, e.g. milk, there is low consumption of such products by key sections of the population. Neither country has population mean intakes that meet the current estimated average requirement (EAR) level of 400 IU. Caucasians had the highest average vitamin D levels followed by Hispanics, while African Americans had the lowest average levels, showing the lowest intakes of vitamin D on top of a reduced potential for adequate sun-induced synthesis of vitamin D due to having dark skin.

The researchers commented that alternative foods may offer fortification potential for vitamin D to help increase intakes of the vitamin among sections of the population that need it most. “Bio-addition” – the addition of vitamin D-rich food to animal feed during production, or the manipulation of food after harvesting or before processing (e.g. edible mushrooms exposed to UV light) – may provide a wider range of foods containing vitamin D, and thus appeal to differing preferences, cultures and possibly economic statuses.

Fortification practices are different in the US and Canada: the former has a voluntary approach while the latter stresses mandatory fortification. Nevertheless, both are similar in providing fortified foods with proven efficacy. A number of foods are allowed to be fortified with vitamin D, including fluid milk, soy beverage products, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, enriched rice, calcium-fortified 100% fruit juice, enriched cornmeal products, yogurt, cheese and cheese products, meal replacements, margarine, and infant formula. Some scientists have called into question the adequacy of foods fortified with vitamin D in meeting the needs of all race, gender and age groups.


  1. Calvo M. S. and Whiting S. J. Survey of current vitamin D food fortification practices in the United States and Canada. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Published online December 2012.

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