What are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are the class of nutrients comprised of substances that are needed by the body in trace amounts but are, nevertheless, essential for proper functioning of the body. They include certain vitamins, trace elements and some other organic compounds.


The nutrients falling under the category of micronutrients include

  • Microminerals: needed in very small amounts. Include iodine, iron, chromium, cobalt, copper, boron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, zinc and fluoride.
  • Macrominerals: required in slightly more amounts than microminerals. Include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, and potassium.
  • The principal vitamins include the B-complex vitamins, vitamin A, C, D, E, K and carotenoids.
  • The organic compounds classified as micronutrients include acetic acid, citric acid, lactic acid, malic acid, taurine and choline.


Micronutrients are obtained from a diverse variety of animal and plant sources. Artificial means of manufacturing them are also present. Meat, dairy products, raw vegetables (especially the green, leafy ones)and fruits are good sources of these vitamins and minerals. In some geographical locations micronutrients are deficient and give rise to high prevalence rate of a particular disease; for example, goiter (due to iodine deficiency) is usually endemic in high altitude areas.

Micronutrients are important for

  • Proper functioning and strengthening of the immune system, thereby reducing the risk of a majority of infections.
  • Enhanced mental and cognitive functions
  • Organ development during organogenesis, for example, iodine is important for thyroid development.
  • Metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids.
  • Formation of structural substances like collagen, bone etc.
  • Optimal functioning of the enzymes as their cofactors and coenzymes. For example, selenium acts as a cofactor for glutathione peroxidase.
  • Appropriate DNA transcription and translation, for example, folic acid
  • Prevention of oxidative stress. Vitamin E is one of the most potent anti-oxidant substances.
  • Regulation of cardiac rhythmicity, for example, potassium, sodium and magnesium.
  • Neuromuscular functioning, for example, calcium, sodium and potassium.


Severe and prolonged deficiency of micronutrients in diet can lead to serious consequences. Many diseases stem from deficient dietary intake of micronutrients. Some of them are listed


Iodine || Cretinism, goiter, mental retardation

Iron || Iron deficiency anemia, mental retardation

Zinc || Diarrhea, respiratory tract infections

Folic acid || Congenital birth defects, megaloblastic anemia

Calcium || Increased risk of fractures, neuromuscular abnormalities

Fluorine || Tooth decay

Vitamin A || Xerophthalmia, night blindness, hyperkeratosis

Thiamine (vitamin B1) || Beriberi, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) || Cheilosis

Niacin (Vitamin B3) || Pellagra, CNS dysfunction

Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) || Anemia, seizures, neuropathies

Cobalamine (Vitamin B12) || Megaloblastic anemia

Vitamin C || Scurvy

Vitamin D || Rickets, Osteomalacia

Vitamin E || Hemolytic anemia

Vitmain K || Bleeding disorders


Mass scale provision of population with micronutrients, for example; iodination of table salt or fluoridation of water.

Intake of vitamins and nutrients as supplements.
Educating the public about the importance of consuming a balanced diet.


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  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_micronutrients
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  • http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/idd/en/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585731/
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