Picture of osteoporotic bone, healthy bone, fish, bread

Short description of the OPTIFORD project
The purpose of the OPTIFORD project is to investigate whether fortification of food with vitamin D is a feasible strategy to remedy the insufficient vitamin D status of large population groups in Europe, and to determine at what level fortification should be pitched. An important outcome is to reinforce the scientific base for recommendations on vitamin D as a nutrient.

Nutrient additions to the human food chain include vitamin D incorporated in a wide variety of fatty foods. Against this background, this project addresses the EU Framework 5 QoL Work Program calling for the 'development of foods with particular benefit in population groups such as - children, women at various life stages and older persons'. Vitamin D status will be determined and adjusted upwards by supplemental intervention in

  • a population of adolescent girls at the time of maximum growth;
  • a group of older individuals with vitamin D insufficiency;
  • an ethnic minority.

A longitudinal survey will be carried out in five European countries of vitamin D status in relation to seasonal variation in measured solar exposure. The feasibility of addressing the vitamin D deficiencies revealed is the subject of research in a work package concerned with the development of vitamin D fortified bread.

The project is supported by the EU Commission under the EU contract number QLK1-CT-2000-00623.

For more information see other pages or contact the project leader, Ellen Trolle, or co-coordinator, Heddie Meiborn, Department of Nutrition, Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research.

The OPTIFORD project aims - taking a long term view - at improving vitamin D status of the European population, and thus takes up many facets of general health with particular reference to bone integrity.

Vitamin D deficiency is known to be very common in the elderly. It represents a major public health problem as it is recognised to be an important risk factor for hip fractures, which are associated with significant excess mortality, disability and economic costs.

There is presently also disturbing evidence of rickets reappearing in Europe, particularly in immigrant populations.

It has, in addition, been pointed out that the levels of parathyroid hormone seen in many Europeans, particularly in the winter, are high enough to indicate a degree of hyperparathyroidism, which could be associated, particularly in the rapidly growing young, with an undesirable departure from achievement of optimal bone mass.

Vitamin D fortification and/or supplementation strategies are an effective and reasonably cheap way of arresting preventable health consequences. But there are many unknowns in relation to the strategy of vitamin D fortification of food, particularly concerning the levels achieving optimal effects without toxicity.


The conference

"Fortification of Food in Europe - with specific emphasis on vitamin D"

took place in
Copenhagen, 4-5 June, 2004.

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