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Is Fortification the answer? - The roots of Orange Juice

Orange Juice

According to the Mayo Clinic, functional foods are foods that have potentially positive effects on health beyond basic nutrition.


Examples of such functional foods would be foods that have added vitamins or other functional components (fatty acids, flavonoids, sterols, etc.) that would help decrease risk for diseases. Products such as margarines, bread, and oats are just a few functional foods that we see functional components added to.

I decided to look into calcium fortified orange juice. Calcium not only helps with nerve impulses and muscle contractions but plays a major role in supporting the bones and teeth function and structure.

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Calcium is naturally found in many foods (collard greens, kale, soy beans, figs, oranges, sardines, salmon, shrimp, yogurt, mozzarella, etc.) but is also fortified in many foods (oatmeal, english muffins, tofu, orange juice, almond milk, rice milk, etc.), calcium fortified orange juice being one that I am most familiar with.

In an article published in 1997 by Food Processing, it states that Tropicana ought to have had the prize for best timing and release of it’s Pure Premium Orange Juice with Calcium & Extra Vitamin C.

This was directly after the new guidelines were formatted and published stating the need for an increase of recommended calcium, specifically targeting the elderly population. In addition, according to the U.S. Report Healthy People 2000, The Surgeon General’s Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, it targeted calcium as one of two nutrients that was singled out by the federal government as constituting a national attention for severe deficiency. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that 54 million Americans still suffer from low bone density or osteoporosis, a disease that is characterized as bone loss making your bones week and frail. Osteoporosis has been found to be directly linked with poor absorption of calcium.

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Food manufacturers interpreted the increase for daily recommended intake of calcium as an incentive to add calcium to it’s products. At the time, Tropicana’s orange juice was the only not from concentrate orange juice that contained a patented calcium source Fruitcal, also known as calcium citrate malate (CCM), hence the optimal timing for release. Fruitcal was thought to be readily absorbable for the individual with a whopping 350 mg of calcium per cup of orange juice. Interestingly, even with the terrible claims and marketing advertisements, the calcium fortified orange juice works.

The calcium availability by adding the Fruitcal to it’s product was so good, it was found to be just as successful or similar to the availability of calcium from cow’s milk.

On tropicana.com, Tropicana Pure Premium Calcium and Vitamin D is stated to have five features for nutritional benefits ranging from excellent to good source : calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid, potassium, and a provider of two servings of fruit. It’s interesting to me that when you roll over the feature, it provides you with information on exactly why each claim is significant to the purchasers health. For example, it states not only that their juice is just as good as a glass of milk and that it is good for bones and teeth but also that their Fruitcal source of calcium is more absorbable than their competitors, calcium carbonate supplements.

Food claims such as “high in calcium” can be very misleading. From my research, in almost every article, it states that the orange juice MUST be mixed to maximize the calcium benefit, however, I believe that is not stressed on the bottle with a claim “mix well to get full nutritional benefit of calcium”.

Nevertheless, fortification does seem to work. There have been complete elimination of rickets, goiter, and pellagra attributed to fortification of foods with vitamin D, iodine, and niacine, and with this considered, one of the great public health achievements. Functional foods have grown in the past thirty years and will continue to grow. In 2008, functional foods were found to make up a $30.7 billion market with examples of products fortified with omega fatty acids, lycophene, probiotics, calcium, etc...

Is it, however, superior over whole foods?

I leave you with a quote from Marion Nestle herself of which I happen to agree.

“Processing destroys nutrients, and the more processing there is, the more destruction you get. Fortification adds back some nutrients, so overall you’re better off with a processed fortified food than a processed unfortified one. But a whole food is always going to be superior”. ~ Nestle

Mayo Clinic. Accessed October 21, 2014.
A Guide to Calcium Rich Foods. National Ostoeporosis Foundation
Broihier K. Time is Ripe for Calcium-fortified OJ. Food Processing. 1997;58(10); 50.
National Osteoporosis Foundation Accessed October 22 2014.
Nestle M. Food Politics: How The Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. Berkley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press; 2013.