Food Fortification — Healthy or Harmful?

Food fortification has been a standard practice in Western industrial nations ever since mass produced nutrients became a possibility. The advent of fortification really took off with the addition of iron to wheat flour in a misguided attempt to help populations suffering from anemia. Any simple minded person can see that a lack of iron exposure is not a cause of anemia, as even populations with regular exposure to iron can still be anemic. As I discuss in my book, Fuck Portion Control, Anemia occurs due to deficiencies of the vitamins which manage iron, and the addition of iron to wheat flour has done nothing except promote iron excess diseases and fuel the growth of invasive pathogens which rely on access to iron for their survival and propagation. The addition of some vitamins to food can be helpful, but others such as synthetic folic acid rather than the natural form of folate seem to cause their own health problems—while supplying some folic acid it also feeds pathogenic bacteria which rely on folic acid for their growth too. So fortification is not always a great idea and certainly should not be mandatory such as is the case with added iron to wheat flour, since it probably causes far more problems due to iron excess than it could ever hope to solve.

Some fortification can be helpful, however, if you do it at home with the items that you need personally. For instance, in my book I discuss the use of minerals such as zinc and molybdenum for various metabolic pathways, but both of these minerals are difficult to absorb unless they are part of certain molecular complexes, of which most supplement forms are not. A great way to increase the bioavailability of minerals like zinc or molybdenum is to open a supplement capsule into a fermenting food preparation such as when making heirloom sourdough bread. The yeast and bacterial cultures will process these mineral forms and the various acids they create will make complexes of these minerals which are in turn far more bioavailable than the kinds you can buy. Because of this, it’s important not to use in excess as the difference between 1 mg of low-bioavailable molybdenum, where a person may only absorb 100-300 mcg, to high bioavailable molybdenum where we may absorb nearly all of it can hold the potential to cause excess supplementation. Personally I add 500 mcg of a molybdenum supplement and 30 mg of zinc glycinate to my sourdough bread dough when mixing the ingredients, and the difference in bioavailability is so remarkable that effects are immediately noticeable. Some minerals like sulfur are antimicrobial, though, and will kill such microbes and ruin your starter. More traditional forms of supplementation like this have been around for a long time though, and the reason that some foods like tofu or corn are made digestible is with the addition of calcium, without which they are mainly undigestible and can even cause malnutrition, so the addition of a little calcium sulfate to bread starter could also be helpful if not done in excess (1/2 tsp for instance), and a little extra magnesium using magnesium bicarbonate water instead of normal spring water are some other ideas. Regular practice of adding needed minerals to things such as sourdough bread dough where organic fatty acids are abundant can provide fortification for your personal medical situation that is both effective and cost efficient, increasing and extending the efficacy of supplements and thus reducing the frequency of purchases while better supporting your metabolic health overall. Because traditionally made bread with safe heirloom grains provides unique B vitamins in abundance, it is one of the best options, although as discussed in my book the occasional fermentation of other foods such as rice could also be used. Dairy products generally produce too much lactic acid to be used as fermented foods and this practice is not recommended.

Remember that excess is not often a good thing, so don’t overdo it the way that the FDA has overdone iron fortification. Too much zinc and molybdenum can potentially cause a copper deficiency. Because excess copper can be very harmful, zinc and molybdenum help metabolic diseases which are often associated with excess copper and iron, but too much of either would also cause their own problems. So practice this in moderation and use common sense when playing with your food.

Nathan HatchComment