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Micronutrient Facts

Micronutrients are dietary components, often referred to as vitamins and minerals, which although only required by the body in small amounts, are vital to development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. Micronutrients are not produced in the body and must be derived from the diet1.

Deficiencies in micronutrients such as iron, iodine, vitamin A, folate and zinc can have devastating consequences. At least half of children worldwide ages 6 months to 5 years suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiency, and globally more than 2 billion people are affected2.

IMMPaCt focuses primarily on helping to eliminate deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, iodine, folate and zinc.

Photo of teacher in front of children's classroom
Preventing iron deficiency helps improve children's learning ability and cognitive development.

Iron

  • Iron is an essential mineral critical for motor and cognitive development. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the consequences of iron deficiency3.
  • Low hemoglobin concentration (anemia) affects 43% of children 5 years of age and 38% of pregnant women globally4
  • Anemia during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal and perinatal mortality and low birth weight. Maternal and neonatal deaths are a major cause of mortality, together causing between 2.5 million and 3.4 million deaths worldwide4
  • WHO recommends iron and folic acid supplements for reducing anemia and improving iron status among women of reproductive age5.
  • Flour fortification with iron and folic acid is globally recognized as one of the most effective and low-cost micronutrient interventions.6

Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A is necessary to support healthy eyesight and immune system functions; children who are deficient face an increased risk of blindness and death from infections such as measles and diarrhea7.
  • Globally, 1 in 3 pre-school aged children and 1 in 6 pregnant women are vitamin A deficient due to inadequate dietary intake.7
  • Vitamin A supplementation of children 6-59 months has been shown to be highly effective in reducing mortality from all causes in countries where vitamin A deficiency is a public health concern,7, 8.

IodinePhoto of salt

  • Iodine is one of the most important minerals required by a fetus for brain and cognitive development, though the iodine content in most foods and beverages is low3.
  • 18 million babies are born mentally impaired because of maternal iodine deficiency and 38 million are born at risk of iodine deficiency9.  Globally it is estimated that 2 billion people have insufficient iodine intake10.
  • Fortification of salt with iodine has been one of the most successful nutrition interventions to date--71% of global households have access to iodized salt11.
  • Salt iodization has led to an increase in IQ points and significant decline in the prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders, such as goitres3.

Zinc

  • Zinc is a mineral that promotes immunity, resistance to infection, and proper growth and development of the nervous system3, and is integral to healthy pregnancy outcomes12
  • 17.3% of the global population is at risk for zinc deficiency due to dietary inadequacy, though up to 30% of people are at risk in some regions of the world12.
  • Zinc supplementation reduces the incidence of premature birth, decreases childhood diarrhea and respiratory infections, lowers all-cause mortality, and increases growth and weight gain among infants and young children12.
Photo of wheat
Flour can be fortified with folic acid at low cost, helping prevent birth defects and some forms of anemia.

Folate

  • Folate is a vitamin that is essential in the earliest days of fetal growth for healthy development of the brain, spinal cord, and skull13
  • Ensuring sufficient levels of folate in women prior to conception can reduce neural tube defects (a serious birth defect) by up to 50%13
  • Supplementations of women 15-49 years with folic acid, and fortification of foods such as wheat flour with folic acid, are effective interventions for the reduction of birth defects, morbidity, and mortality in newborns5, 14.

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References

  1. Sight & Life: Micronutrients; Macro Impact, the Story of Vitamins and a Hungry World, 2011 http://www.sightandlife.org/fileadmin/data/Books/Micronutrients_Macro_Impact.pdf
  2. Investing in the future: A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Global Report 2009 p. 1 http://www.unitedcalltoaction.org
  3. Investing in the future: A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Global Report 2009 p. 5  http://www.unitedcalltoaction.org
  4. Stevens GA, et al. Global, regional, and national trends in haemoglobin concentration and prevalence of total and severe anaemia in children and pregnant and non-pregnant women for 1995—2011: a systematic analysis of population-representative data. The Lancet Global Health, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages e16 - e25, July 2013. http://image.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(13)70001-9/fulltext
  5. WHO Guideline: Intermittent iron and folic acid supplementation in menstruating women http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/micronutrients/guidelines/guideline_iron_folicacid_suppl_women/en/index.html
  6. Copenhagen Consensus 2012: Solving the World’s Challenges http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/projects/guide-to-giving/combating-hunger/micronutrient-fortification/the-research
  7. UNICEF - Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress. 2013, pg23 http://www.unicef.org/media/files/nutrition_report_2013.pdf
  8. WHO Guideline: Vitamin A supplementation for infants and children 6-59 months of age http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/micronutrients/guidelines/vas_6to59_months/en/index.html
  9. Investing in the future: A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Global Report 2009 p. 9  http://www.unitedcalltoaction.org
  10. Zimmermann MB. Iodine Deficiency. Endocrine Reviews, June 2009, 30(4):376–408
  11. Zimmermann MB; Andersson M. Assessment of iodine nutrition in populations: past, present, and future. Nutr Rev. 2012 Oct; 70(10):553-70
  12. Wessells KR, Brown KH. Estimating the Global Prevalence of Zinc Deficiency: Results Based on Zinc Availability in National Food Supplies and the Prevalence of Stunting. PLoS ONE 2013 7(11): e50568  
  13. Investing in the future: A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Global Report 2009 p. 6  http://www.unitedcalltoaction.org
  14. Zimmerman, SL. Fifteen Years of Fortifying With Folic Acid. SIGHT AND LIFE; Vol. 25 (3): 2011 http://www.sightandlife.org/fileadmin/data/Magazine/2011/25_3_2011/views_15_years_of_fortifying_with_folic_acid.pdf

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