These were the findings presented by academics in a letter to editor of the journal Biomedical and Environmental Sciences.
They stated a survey of 298 mid-trimester urban pregnant women in Beijing, northern China, Hefei in central China, and Nanning in southern China found that consumer awareness of fortified foods was far lower than that for supplements.
Approximately 52.01% (155/298) of the subjects had consumed fortified foods during the past month (more than three times), mainly milk (29.87%) and milk powder (27.52%), while 71.14% (212/298) of the subjects had consumed a supplement during the past month.
Multivitamins and minerals were the main types of food supplements consumed (81.60%), alongside moderate consumption of some single minerals or vitamins.
While they found that the base diet was the greatest contributor to the total intake of calcium, iron, and zinc, with an average contribution of 68.99%, 85.97%, and 80.57% respectively, this was followed by supplements (20.88%, 10.05%, and 15.39%), whereas fortified foods contributed the least (10.13%, 3.98%, and 4.04%).
The academics, from several Chinese institutions, said the relatively low intake of minerals from fortified foods suggested that permitted fortification levels could be increased.
“For urban pregnant women, consumption of fortified foods and food supplements can be an effective approach to improve the minerals intake when a calcium, iron, or zinc deficiency is encountered,” they wrote.
“However, the contribution of fortified foods for these three nutrients was still at a rather low level, indicating that the fortified values can be higher, based on more risk analysis data.”
“For example, more micronutrients need to be evaluated, and the database of fortified foods needs to be improved. Meanwhile, further intensive studies concerning nutrients risk assessment re-assessment and risk-benefit analysis of fortification is required.”
We recently reported on a cohort study that showed the top five supplements taken by Chinese pregnant women were calcium and folic acid, followed by iron, multivitamins and vitamin C.