Folate, zinc, calcium and vitamin D levels also required attention in both developed and developing worlds, Dr Ibrahim Elmadfa told the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) in a closing presentation.
The deficiencies result in growth stunting, blindness, muscle wasting and can cause death and #FENS2015 featured many presentations tackling the problem of malnutrition and undernutrition from crop and soil improvement to functional foods and infant nutrient interventions.
How to convert nutrition research on intakes into dietary guidelines that could make a real difference to food intakes in different populations and health outcomes was a central topic in Berlin.
While nutrition science continues to evolve at a rapid rate, in some areas like intake data, there remain large data gaps, as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) observed yesterday in a presentation on DRVs (dietary recommended values).
In Europe, Dr Elmadfa observed the challenge was different.
“We are focusing very much on optimising nutrition, developing functional foods for health promotion, disease prevention, improving well-being – we can achieve this by adding certain ingredients to certain food matrices,” the director of the Institute of Nutritional Science at the University of Vienna in Austria told the 2000-strong congress that will next be held in Dublin in 2019.
He noted fortification was rarely mandatory in European nations with exceptions in some countries for the likes of folate, vitamin D and iodine. He said voluntary fortification was often problematic because the nutrients selected were not always those that were in the most critical deficiency.
But he warned: “Food fortification is like a double-edged sword. We have to avoid over-supply but prevent deficit.”
Dr Elmadfa showed that many micronutrients were deficient state in the obese/overweight, highlighting the issue of over-eating was not just about energy intake.
“We need to find ways of adapting fortified foods to the needs of the target market. Finding appropriate fortification for the particular matrix. Fortified foods have their place in nutrition.”