THE VALUE OF MICRONUTRIENTS IN OUR DIET
What Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients (1) are those nutrients that are required by our body in only very small amounts. Although required in only minute quantities, they are very essential for the normal functioning and optimum performance of the body. Any lower than the normal values will bring forth different diseases and health problems which can only be catered to by increasing the micronutrient uptake.
There are a number of micronutrients (2) in our body, some of which are strictly uptaken through diet while another class of it is also synthesized by the body itself. The micronutrients include vitamins and minerals which are as follows:
- Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K)
- Water soluble vitamins (B & C)
- Macrominerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, & sulfur)
- Trace Minerals (iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, & selenium)
Out of all the major micronutrients, Vitamin D is the only one that is synthesized by the body through the precursors of cholesterol. Vitamin K and Biotin (Vitamin B7) are synthesized with the help of the microflora in the gut. All others have necessarily to be consumed through diet.
Uses Of Micronutrients In Our Body
The micronutrients have various roles and essential uses (3) in our bodies. Some of the major ones are listed below:
- Iron: The body needs iron to synthesize hemoglobin which is a pigment in the red blood cells. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is largely dependent on the normal levels of iron.
- Fat-soluble vitamins: These vitamins are important for the regulation of vision, bone density, immune system, and blood coagulation.
- Water soluble vitamins: They are responsible for the liberation of energy from the food we eat. Also, many normal biochemical reactions in the body are mediated by these vitamins.
- Calcium & Phosphorous: Both are extremely important for the regulation of bone density. Calcium is important for heart muscle contractions while phosphorus has a vital role in energy production through ATP molecules.
- Sodium & Potassium: Both are vital for the regulation of nerve impulses which bring about the right movement and action in our body. They are also required for the maintenance of normal blood pressure and normal fluid levels in the body. (4)
What Happens With The Lack Of Micronutrients?
With the lack of nutrients, a number of diseases come to the surface. If these nutrients are not well consumed through the diet, the person is susceptible to multiple health issues. When we think about nutrition, we usually think in terms of caloric intake and carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids for dietary balance. Micronutrients are something extremely neglected when a person focuses on diet. (5)
Low iron intake causes anemia. Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy in infants. Vitamin B deficiency gives rise to confusion, digestive problems, and megaloblastic anemia. Lack of Vitamin E is related to immunocompromised health problems. A lack of sodium and potassium in the diet can cause blood pressure and fluid regulation problems. Low Iodine intake causes problems with the thyroid. In short, every micronutrient is essential for dietary intake. (6)
Taking Micronutrients From Diet Vs. Supplements
The use of supplements has become a new trend in the attempt of caring for health. Micronutrients can definitely be replenished through supplements but their intake through diet is the most feasible option. (7) Adding supplements to the diet of a normal person can disturb the normal balance of micronutrients in our body which can give rise to further problems - definitely, a risk which should not be taken, except if the supplements are prescribed by the physician!
- Shergill-Bonner, R. (2017). Micronutrients. Paediatrics and Child Health, 27(8), 357–362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paed.2017.04.002
- Shenkin, A. (2006). The key role of micronutrients. Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), 25(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2005.11.006
- Gibson, R. S., & Hotz, C. (2001). Dietary diversification/modification strategies to enhance micronutrient content and bioavailability of diets in developing countries. British Journal of Nutrition, 85(S2), S159–S166. https://doi.org/10.1079/bjn2001309
- Tontisirin, K., Nantel, G., & Bhattacharjee, L. (2002). Food-based strategies to meet the challenges of micronutrient malnutrition in the developing world. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 61(2), 243–250. https://doi.org/10.1079/pns2002155
- Tulchinsky, T. H. (2010). Micronutrient Deficiency Conditions: Global Health Issues. Public Health Reviews, 32(1), 243–255. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03391600
- Calton, J. B. (2010). Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-24
- Bailey, R. L., Fulgoni, V. L., Keast, D. R., Lentino, C. V., & Dwyer, J. T. (2012). Do Dietary Supplements Improve Micronutrient Sufficiency in Children and Adolescents? The Journal of Pediatrics, 161(5), 837-842.e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.05.009
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- Cecilia Arias