Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Promoting Public Health: High vitamin-D bread could help solve widespread insufficiency problem

April 13, 2011

Bread made with yeast that produces vitamin D
could help solve widespread insufficiency of
the nutrient.
Credit: iStock

Summary

With most people unable to get enough vitamin D from sunlight
or foods, scientists are suggesting that a new vitamin D-fortified
food — bread made with high-vitamin D yeast — could fill
that gap. Their study, confirming that the approach works in
laboratory tests, appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and
Food Chemistry
. Far from just contributing to healthy bones,
however, vitamin D seems to have body-wide beneficial effects.

With most people unable to get enough vitamin D from sunlight or foods, scientists are suggesting that a new vitamin D-fortified food — bread made with high-vitamin D yeast — could fill that gap. Their study, confirming that the approach works in laboratory tests, appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Here’s study lead author Connie Weaver, Ph.D., of Department of Foods & Nutrition Purdue University West Lafayette, Indiana.

“On average, Americans consume only one-third of the recommended intakes for vitamin D, which enables the body to absorb calcium. Far from just contributing to healthy bones, however, vitamin D seems to have body-wide beneficial effects. Vitamin D insufficiency has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, allergy in children, and other conditions.”

The problem is that it’s not so easy to get adequate levels of this important vitamin, as Weaver points out.

“With few good natural sources of vitamin D, milk producers long have added it to milk, but dairy products just don’t provide enough. The body makes its own vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. But people are not exposed to sun in winter and are avoiding the sun and using sun blocks in summer. So we have been looking for new ways to add vitamin D to the diet.”

Adding high levels of vitamin D to baked bread has seemed like the answer to the problem, but some scientists have been skeptical. The Purdue team conducted a study using rats as stand-ins for humans and their results are quite interesting.

“The doubts originated because yeast produces one form of the vitamin, termed vitamin D2, which has been thought to be not as biologically active as the form produced by sun, vitamin D3. But our study showed that bread made with vitamin D2-rich yeast, fed to the laboratory rats, had effects that seemed just as beneficial as vitamin D3. These results suggest that bread made with high vitamin D yeast could be a valuable new source of vitamin D in the diet.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

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Connie M. Weaver, Ph.D.
Purdue University West
Lafayette, Indiana