Researchers at Tulane University School of Medicine in Louisiana, US, have found that fortified instant wheat noodles retain most of their nutrients after cooking and that added vitamins or minerals, with the exception of thiamin, do not remarkably alter the taste or texture of instant noodles.
The increasing demand for instant noodles in Asia demonstrates opportunity for food manufacturers to fortify wheat flour to reduce nutritional deficiencies in the region.
“Wheat flour fortification is a well-accepted practice globally to reduce the risk of anaemia caused by nutritional deficiencies and neural tube defects caused by insufficient folic acid. However, wheat flour fortification has yet to become routine practice in Asia even though wheat-based foods are the second most commonly consumed staple food after rice in most countries,” according to the researchers.
While the demand for instant noodles are increasing, it is likely that consumers of instant noodles are individuals in the lower and middle income turning to quick meal, revealed the study. Nevertheless, fortification of wheat flour used for instant noodle production has a huge potential in improving dietary micronutrient intake, especially among vulnerable populations in Asia.
“One framework for the design of food fortification programs posits that several components of scientific evidence are needed to ensure effectiveness. 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,” wrote the researchers.
The study found that instant noodles produced from fortified wheat flour have the potential to increase nutrient intakes. It also has high levels of nutrient retention after production, storage and cooking, without causing significant changes in sensory characteristics. This is applicable to all reported nutrients with the exception of thiamin.
“If evidence shows that these criteria are met, then large-scale food fortification may be an effective way to increase nutrient intake among the population,” wrote the researchers.
Demand for instant noodles made with wheat flour has increased from 92.2 million servings in 2009 to 106 million servings in 2013, showing a three percent yearly growth. The bulk of these servings were sold in China, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam and India. This trend is characterised by the population in the region turning to convenience foods which requires little preparation.