With demand for instant noodles in the region continuing to grow, researchers have said there is a strong case for fortification.
They point out that fortified instant wheat noodles retain most of their nutrients after cooking, and a review of various studies revealed that vitamins or minerals added to the flour does not significantly alter the noodle’s taste or texture.
“Before any food is fortified with vitamins and minerals to improve the nutrient intake of a population, several factors should be considered: potential for impact, nutrient retention and bioavailability, sensory changes, efficacy and effectiveness,” researchers from Tulane University School of Medicine, Emory University and Food Fortification Initiative wrote in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“The documents revealed that instant noodles produced from fortified wheat flour have potential to improve nutrient intakes, have high retention of most nutrients, and provoke no or minimal changes in sensory characteristics.”
Data for the review were based on 14 relevant documents culled from seven databases. From the reviewed documents, researchers found nutrients mostly used to fortify wheat flours include iron in the form of NaFeEDTA, ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, electrolytic iron, encapsulated elemental iron, and encapsulated ferrous fumarate, as well as folic acid, vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin), vitamin A palmitate, zinc oxide, thiamin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine.
“The retention studies repeatedly show that for folate, riboflavin and pyridoxine added to instant noodles, more than 75% of the nutrients are retained throughout processing and cooking while almost all iron is retained after production and storage.”
On the other hand, thiamin does not retain well, where losses after cooking range from 45-80%.
Stable shelf life
Researchers also studied sensory evaluations on fortified noodles done in Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.
“Fortification of wheat flour with iron and other nutrients minimally influenced sensory attributes of instant noodles made from the flour and did not decrease the shelf life except when stored above 30°C for more than 12 months,” they reported.
While the reviewed documents revealed findings on nutrient retention and sensory evaluations, researchers noted that there were no trials examining fortified noodles’ efficacy, bioavailability nor the effectiveness of fortified instant noodles in improving a nation’s nutrition status.
Instant noodles may not be the most healthy food vehicle to encourage increased nutrition intake, but regulators need to consider what food would appeal to more people, the review said.
“To reach national-scale coverage of the benefits of fortification, the best foods to fortify are centrally processed foods that are widely eaten, including by the poorest populations. Sometimes this means fortifying foods that are not deemed healthy,” researchers noted.
“For example, salt intake is associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, yet it is the optimal vehicle for increasing iodine intake. In the same way, fortification of wheat flour used to make instant noodles can make an important contribution to increasing micronutrient intakes as instant noodles are widely eaten.”
Researchers said instant noodle manufacturers should also be urged to further reduce the sodium and fat content of their products.
They concluded: “Given the rising consumption of instant noodles, production of this item with fortified wheat flour has potential to improve nutrient intakes in Asia.”
Source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition
“Instant noodles made with fortified wheat flour toimprove micronutrient intake in Asia: a review of simulation, nutrient retention and sensory studies”
Authors: Kayla L Bronder, Sarah L Zimmerman et al.