Examining Overly Fortified Food

Posted at 5:48 PM, Mar 23, 2016

Supermarket aisles are filled with fortified foods, including cereal, orange juice, pasta, bread, protein drinks, and snack bars. But Consumer Reports says be cautious: Too much of some of the nutrients in fortified foods and dietary supplements can be harmful.

Take calcium. The daily recommended amount for adults is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams.

Say you start your morning with a bowl of Total Whole Grain cereal. Each serving is fortified with 100 percent of your daily calcium needs, and that’s without milk. Add the milk and pop a daily dose of a calcium supplement, and you’ve doubled the amount of calcium your body needs. Too much supplemental calcium can increase your risk for kidney stones.

Too much iron is another concern. A bowl of Kellogg’s Product 19 has 18 milligrams, and plenty of other foods are fortified with iron, so you could be getting more than you think. Too much increases the risk of diabetes and heart problems, and can cause other serious health issues. Most healthy adults need just 8 milligrams per day. Women under 51 need 18 milligrams, and pregnant women need 27 milligrams.

And keep an eye on folic acid, a synthetic form of folate. Most healthy adults who aren’t pregnant need just 400 micrograms of folic acid or folate per day. Overdoing it can hide the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency in people over 50.

Consumer Reports says you don’t need to avoid fortified foods altogether. But it’s a good idea to check labels. And unless your doctor recommends a dietary supplement, Consumer Reports says it’s best to skip them.

The good news? Most American adults already get enough of these nutrients without eating fortified foods or taking dietary supplements. Turn to dark leafy greens for calcium, iron, and folate. Many foods are a good source of calcium, including milk cheese, and yogurt. Red meat is rich in iron.