What is Iron fortification?
- Iron is an essential mineral required for many bodily functions, including the formation of hemoglobin, but can be harmful when taken in excess.
- One of the methods suggested for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia is fortification of food with iron.
- Typically, a chosen food staple like wheat or rice, or even salt, is fortified to provide up to two thirds (10 mg/day) of the iron requirement of adult women, and almost the entire daily requirement of men.
Risks associated with Iron fortification
- Excess consumption of iron can occur if one habitually consumes a balanced quality diet to begin with or exceeds limits for consumption of the fortified food (as can occur with staples like rice or wheat) or if two fortified foods are simultaneously consumed.
- In addition, when combined with additional iron supplemental interventions like weekly iron folic acid supplements (such as in the National Iron Plus Initiative programme), this can lead to an excess of iron intake for women.
- There is a defined level of iron intake beyond which the risk of adverse events begins to increase. This is called the ‘tolerable upper limit’ of intake, and is set at 40 mg/day.
- An excess of iron in the gastrointestinal tract can impair absorption of other minerals such as zinc and copper, which are also essential for the body and lead to other deficiencies.
- Diabetes risk is increased in subjects with increased dietary iron intake and with higher iron stores (represented by high levels of a storage molecule called ferritin) even in the absence of markers of inflammation.