What are Micronutrients?

plural noun: micronutrients
  1. 1.
    a chemical element or substance required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms.
    Micronutrients are nutrients required by humans and other organisms throughout life in small quantities to orchestrate a range of physiological functions. For people, they include dietary trace minerals in amounts generally less than 100 milligrams/day – as opposed to macrominerals which are required in larger quantities. The microminerals or trace elements include at least iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum. Micronutrients also include vitamins, which are organic compounds required as nutrients in tiny amounts by an organism.

Why Are They Important?

Proper intake of vitamins and minerals can mean the difference between a healthy, productive life, and a life fraught with illness.

Micronutrient deficiencies, which affect over two billion people around the globe today, are the leading cause of mental retardation, preventable blindness, and death during childbirth. They are responsible for neural tube defects – the second most prevalent class of birth defects in the world – and play a significant role in reducing the most common form of birth defects (cardiac). A person’s chances of dying from measles or diarrhea are between 30 – 50%. This number can be significantly lowered with proper micronutrient health.

A lack of these important vitamins and minerals also has a profound impact on the body’s immune system.

Immune systems weakened by a lack of micronutrients puts children at increased risk of illness, making them more likely to miss school. Diminished mental capacity and increased absenteeism (due to iodine and iron deficiency) lead to lower academic achievement, with lifelong consequences. Adults are more likely to miss work either due to their own illness, or to care for sick children. Both add to the load of already overburdened healthcare systems.

Even those who are not sick suffer diminished ability concentrate and reduced physical and mental productivity, preventing them from reaching their full potential and increasing the likelihood of further disease and disability. What emerges is a grim cycle compounded by insufficient healthcare and education, poor sanitation, and disease. A mother who is lacking key nutrients not only increases her chances of dying during childbirth, but also risks not being able to provide her child with the proper nutrients needed to begin life.