But It’s Fortified….

When exploring the grocery store today, I noticed that many of the sugar sweetened beverages were fortified with calcium and/or vitamin D.  This perhaps makes them appear “healthy” to the average consumer.  In particular many of the orange juices had the blue label that stated they were fortified with both calcium and vitamin D.  Initially when seeing this label, one may think bone health, as it is fortified with two of the most influential micronutrients in bone development.  However, is this a healthy way to add extra nutrition into our diet?

When diving into the research after the grocery store, it is clear this fortification may not be as beneficial towards health or bone health as it appeared on the label.  A study done at Creighton University was curious how readily absorbed the calcium from fortified orange juice was.  Twenty five individuals were recruited and asked to drink two different orange juices on different occasions.  Afterwards, blood samples were drawn examining calcium levels.  Each brand of orange juice used in the study contained 500mg of calcium per serving.  However, the forms of calcium were different.  In one, calcium citrate and malate were the calcium sources while the other orange juice contained a combination of tricalcium phosphate and calcium lactate.  The study found that the women absorbed 48 percent more of the calcium citrate than they did of the other type of calcium.

Although this study is interesting, and perhaps we can begin to check our ingredient labels for calcium citrate in calcium fortified foods, it is consistent with naturally occurring calcium sources.  For example, both milk and spinach contain calcium, however the calcium in milk is much more bioavailable, where as in the spinach, the oxalates compete for absorption and decrease calcium’s absorption in the body.

I think it is important to bring awareness that we are not always absorbing the amount of any nutrient we are consuming.  This includes labels with fortified nutrients that make people believe they are healthier options.  Focus on making decisions based on the product as a whole, rather than thinking the extra calcium will cancel out the crazy amount of sugar also found in these products.  For that reason, I would not recommend juices fortified with calcium, especially to children where sugar consumption can quickly get out of control.

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