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White Bread

White bread is made from wheat flour from which the bran and the germ have been removed through a process known as milling. Milling gives white flour a longer shelf life by removing the bran which contains oil, allowing products made with it, like white bread, the ability to survive storage and transit times.

A loaf of white breadIn addition, the flour used in white bread is often bleached using potassium bromate or chlorine dioxide gas to remove any slight yellow color and make its baking properties more predictable.

While the milling process helps improve white flour's shelf life, it does remove nutrients like some dietary fiber, iron, B vitamins and micronutrients. Since 1941, however, fortification of white flour-based products with some of the nutrients lost in milling, like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron was mandated by the US government in response to the vast nutrient deficiencies seen in US military recruits at the start of World War II.

This fortification led to nearly universal eradication of deficiency diseases in the US, such as pellagra and beriberi (deficiencies of niacin and thiamine, respectively) and white bread continues to be an important source of these key vitamins to this day.

Folic acid is another nutrient that some governments have mandated is added to enriched grains like white bread. In the US and Canada, these grains have been fortified with mandatory levels of folic acid since 1998 because of its important role in preventing birth defects (2). Since fortification began, the rate of neural tube defects has decreased by approximately one-third in the US, resulting in a cost savings.

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