Malnutrition or “hidden hunger” can be a symptom of too low intake of nutrients, which is a common phenomenon in developed countries even if the amount of digested food and delivered calories is more than required. Some reports suggest that ca. 50% of the world’s population is afflicted with micronutrient deficiency of iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, and selenium. There are three ways to alleviate malnutrition resulting from the lack of micronutrients: direct nutrient supplementation, dietary modification and diversification, and indirect interventions, such as biofortification.

Biofortification, which can be defined as the process of increasing the content/density of essential nutrients and/or its bioavailability of food with valuable compounds, is a promising means of increasing nutrient intakes. The “designer food” with higher content of nutrients can be obtained as a result of genetic modification and classical breeding with modified fodder and by the agronomic pathway.

Through the eleven papers contained in this special issue dedicated to food fortification, different and interesting approaches to improve the efficiency of delivery of essential nutrients to animals and plants as a method to improve the nutritional values of agricultural products are described.

Consumers very often look for the food of animal origin with special nutritional value. Among such products, we can find those which are fortified with food components like polyunsaturated fatty acids, macroelements and trace elements, or substances with prohealth effect. Concerning products of animal origin, we mostly talk about fortifying on the level of the primal/original production that is based on the addition of active components into the feed given to the end-product animals.

In the special edition of Journal of Chemistry “Food Biofortification,” 5 articles dealing with fortifying or quality of food of animal origin were published. Among them, two papers (Konkol and Wojnarowski as well as Górniak et al.) are a systematic/methodical description and references review in the scope of eggs, milk, and meat biofortification in bioactive compounds. The authors underline various forms of trace elements as an alternative to poorly assimilable forms of inorganic elements.

The work of Słupczyńska et al. concerns application of organic selenium forms used in the forage as a source of egg fortification. Results indicate clearly that the method is suitable to deliver more selenium to the human diet through foodstuff egg.

Poultry meat is especially prone to peroxidation process because of the higher share of the polyunsaturated fatty acids than in other types of meat. This free radical oxidation process of the meat lipids occurring during the storage lead to the formation of toxic compounds, such as lipid peroxides, malondialdehyde, and oxysterols. Warmed-over flavor is one of the main effects of the muscle lipids oxidation and accumulation of the secondary derivatives, which also decrease sensory, nutritional, and health value of poultry meat. The experiment of Sierżant et al. aimed to evaluate the possibility of limitations of this process through the application of blackcurrant extract rich in anthocyanins to chickensʼ diets during a different rearing time of birds. The results showed that blackcurrant extract can be an efficient source of antioxidants in the chicken diet, which may increase the oxidative stability of frozen thigh meat. However, the observed increase in lipid oxidation of 1-d-chilled breast muscles indicates a possible pro-oxidative effect of the tested dietary additive, which requires more attention in determining the conditions and ability of selected dietary antioxidants to initiate the oxidation processes in vivo.

Vegetable and animal oils are susceptible to oxidation during storage and hence treated with synthetic antioxidants that may have an adverse health effect, being toxic or carcinogenic, disturbing enzyme synthesis and activity. Thus, in one of the research articles, antioxidant efficacy of natural antioxidant (apple pomace) in the storage of linseed and fish oils in anaerobic conditions is discussed.

Though cisplatin (Cis) is a widely used anticancer drug and potent antitumor drug used against a wide spectrum of malignancies, it exerts serious side effects in several organs including the kidneys and liver. Hence, in another paper, the inhibitory effect of antler extract on Cis-induced toxicity had been described. Furthermore, deep eutectic solvents (DESs), a new group of ecofriendly solvent, were first successfully used for the extraction of resveratrol 9 from natural bioactive compounds from plants (peanut roots) by a group of researchers in the next research article.

Three of the presented articles are related to agronomic biofortification and the influence of agricultural treatments on nutrient levels in food products. Agronomic biofortification in the narrow sense is understood as enriching the edible parts of plants with nutrients, especially microelements in deficit, through fertilization, while in a broader sense, it means improving the nutritional quality of crops using any agronomic practices. A rational fertilizer strategy is generally considered a quick and effective way to increase nutrient concentrations in edible plant products. Examples of successful uses of fertilizer fortification are described in the literature (cases of I, Zn, and Se). However, there are examples of unsuccessful ventures, together with obstacles and disadvantages that caused them.

The application of macronutrient fertilizers may have a significant positive or negative effect on the microelements’ accumulation in plants. The beneficial effects of N fertilization on the content of Fe, Zn, and Cu, as well as the adverse interaction between P and Zn, are well recognized. In their new article, Klikocka and Marks, on the example of spring wheat, prove that sulfur supplementation of NPK fertilization changes the uptake of micronutrients by plants and consequently their content/density in grain.

In addition to fertilization, other agricultural practices, such as crop rotation, intercropping, and tillage should be taken into account as factors directly or indirectly affecting nutrient management in the plant. They can promote or hinder biofortification and, when irrational, even worsen the nutritional value of agricultural products. The few, as yet, studies on the contribution of crop succession and plant neighborhood to food biofortification indicate that a reasonable crop rotation and intercropping may increase the content of welcome nutrients in target biomass. A step towards increasing this knowledge may be an article by Głowacka et al., where the authors discuss strip cropping with leguminous plants as a potential pathway to biofortification of maize. This approach may be particularly useful in regions where maize is a staple food crop.

Jaskulska et al. investigated the effect of the environment and selected agronomic factors, i.e., tillage and nitrogen rate, on the mineral composition and baking value of winter wheat grain. The results show that biofortification with mineral nutrients through selecting environmental and agronomic conditions seems to be limited when the effect of the genotype on the grain composition is very strong.

Conflicts of Interest

The editors declare that they have no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this Special Issue.

Agnieszka Saeid
Ami Patel
Magdalena Jastrzębska
Mariusz Korczyński