By Nigar Orujova, Azernews
Azerbaijan is planning to enrich flour, milk, sugar and other foods with vitamins as part of the effort to strengthen the population's health.
Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micronutrients including minerals and vitamins to food.
Micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, as opposed to macronutrients, such as protein and fat, are necessary for the human organism in very tiny amounts.
Micronutrients include such minerals as iron, copper, iodine, manganese, and zinc. They also include vitamins, such as Vitamins C, A, D, E K, and B, which are organic compounds and also required in tiny amounts.
In this connection, the parliamentary committee on social policy discussed changes of the public health protection law at its session on Wednesday.
The amendment was added into the third article of the law on the state's tasks in the area of public health.
It says that in order to strengthen the Azerbaijani population's health and as part of preventive measures, it is necessary to enrich food products, including flour, milk, sugar and salt, with micronutrients.
Salt has already been enriched in Azerbaijan, the parliamentary committee's chairman Hadi Rajably said.
Rajably also noted that foods have been enriched in other countries for a long time.
"For example, as a result of adding a number of vitamins to foodstuffs, in recent years, the population has become [by an average of] eight centimeters taller," he said. "Micronutrients do not affect the products' taste or flavor, however, they contribute to health promotion among the population."
The plenary parliament session will discuss the bill upon the recommendation of the committee.
Micronutrients are essential for the healthy functioning of human body systems, from bone growth to brain function. For instance, iron helps the body to produce red blood cells and lymphocytes, while iodine helps the thyroid gland to develop and function as well as to metabolize fats, and promotes energy production and growth.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that micronutrient lack poses a huge threat to the health of the world's population. Some common micronutrient deficiencies include iodine deficiency, Vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency.
According to the WHO, interest in micronutrient malnutrition has increased greatly over the last few years. One of the main reasons is the realization that micronutrient malnutrition contributes substantially to the global burden of disease. Furthermore, although such malnutrition is more frequent and severe in the developing world and among disadvantaged populations, it also represents a public health problem in some industrialized countries.
Measures to correct micronutrient deficiencies aim at ensuring consumption of a balanced diet that is adequate in every nutrient. Unfortunately, this is far from being achieved everywhere since it requires universal access to adequate food and appropriate dietary habits. Food fortification has the dual advantage of being able to deliver nutrients to large segments of the population without requiring radical changes in food consumption patterns.