The Crucial Role of Micronutrients in Nourishing Our Bodies

25 January 2024

In the intricate realm of nutrition, there exists a class of vital substances that often go unnoticed—micronutrients. These tiny powerhouses encompass a variety of vital vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, and calcium. Despite being required in small quantities, each micronutrient serves a distinct purpose in supporting immune function, promoting growth and development, and maintaining healthy bones, vision, and cognitive function. According to the Jaipur Midline Report March 2023 by Nourishing Schools Foundation, there is an increase in the percentage of children reporting consumption of Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets by 52 percentage points and of Vitamin A supplements by 38 percentage points compared to the baseline survey. Similarly, according to the Assam Endline Report November 2022 by Nourishing Schools Foundation, there is an increase of 20 percentage points in the percentage of children that consume Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets.

While these micronutrients can be obtained from various foods, their availability may be influenced by factors like soil quality, food processing methods, and individual dietary choices. It is crucial to maintain a diverse and balanced diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins to ensure an adequate intake of these vital nutrients. The symbiotic relationship between micronutrients and our body’s microbiota further emphasises their importance. The gut microbiota, in particular, aids in the breakdown of dietary fibres and facilitates the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.

Unfortunately, the significance of micronutrients is often underestimated, leading to their neglect in our diets. Poor food choices, excessive consumption of processed foods, and limited access to nutrient-rich options contribute to micronutrient deficiencies. Such deficiencies can have severe consequences, including compromised immune function, increased susceptibility to infections, impaired growth and development, cognitive impairment, and anaemia.

The World Health Organisation adopted a resolution in 2023 at the seventy-sixth World Health to accelerate the efforts of preventing micronutrient deficiencies through safe and effective food fortification. Deficiencies in vitamin and mineral status, particularly of folate, iron, vitamin A, and zinc, affect 50% of all preschool-aged children and 67% of all women of reproductive age (WRA) worldwide. Fortification, supported by scientific evidence, is crucial in combating micronutrient deficiencies. This intervention can be implemented on a large scale to target the general population or tailored to specific groups such as children, pregnant women, and individuals benefiting from social protection programs. By fortifying commonly consumed staple foods and condiments like wheat and maize flours, rice, cooking oil, and salt, countries can effectively address and prevent demonstrated micronutrient deficiencies, thereby promoting improved overall health and well-being.

Micronutrients play a pivotal role in maintaining optimal health and well-being. The intricate interplay between these vital substances and our body’s microbiota highlights the significance of a balanced diet that supports both micronutrient intake and microbial diversity. By acknowledging the importance of micronutrients, embracing dietary diversity, and ensuring proper absorption and utilisation through a healthy gut microbiome, we can unlock the full potential of these tiny yet essential components, paving the way for a healthier future.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash