Vitamins, Minerals, and Bioactive Compounds
Department of Research & Development, Granarolo S.p.A., Bologna, Italy
Since their discovery, vitamins have attracted the interest of the scientific community. At first, scientists focused on their role for deficiency prevention or on their behavior as coenzymes. Nowadays, their importance as functional micronutrients providing health benefits is widely recognized: for example, they act as antioxidants, as substances with a hormonal effect and can oppose oxidative stress. Over the last few years, vitamins have also been studied and tested in order to provide better life conditions, to prevent a number of pathologies, to improve psycho-physical performance under chronic stress and finally to assist pharmacotherapies.
Drawing from this new approach, this chapter is intended as an in-depth study of vitamin supplementation in dairy products, in combination with minerals and bioactive compound fortifications, aimed at designing functional products for various population groups.
The World Health Organization defines fortification as the supplementation of a foodstuff with one or more essential micronutrients, that may be naturally present in the same, so as to prevent or adjust a proven deficiency in the general population or in a few population segments (Allen, 2006).
Fortification can be used to reestablish the proper levels of nutrients lost in technological processes (e.g., vitamins B lost in heat treatments), to increase the level of nutrients naturally present in food (e.g., calcium in milk, iron in flour), to provide nutrients through commonly used foods (e.g., iodine in salt, vitamins A and D in milk, vitamin A in margarine).
Fortification may also be market-driven. An increased awareness that functional products are important for good health has led to an increase in the production of vitamin-, mineral- and bioactive compound-fortified-foods.