Fortification is adding vitamins and minerals to foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients regularly used in grain fortification prevent diseases, strengthen immune systems, and improve productivity and cognitive development.
Nutritional anemia is caused by deficiencies of iron, riboflavin, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12. Adding these nutrients to commonly consumed grains reduces the risk of nutritional anemia and the debilitating fatigue that can result. Anemia is also a major risk factor for maternal deaths globally. The vitamins and minerals added to flour and rice also help improve individual’s immunity.
Insufficient folic acid (vitamin B9) is the primary cause of birth defects of the brain and spine such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida can result in permanent paralysis, or it can be fatal in places where medical care is not available. Anencephaly is always fatal.
In Costa Rica for example, anemia declined in women and children, and iron status in children improved after fortification. Also, each year of flour fortification is associated with a 2.4% decrease in anemia prevalence among non-pregnant women.