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.
LIST OF MICRONUTRIENTS
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.
SOURCES OF MICRONUTRIENTS
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.
IMPORTANCE OF MICRONUTRIENTS
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
MICRONUTRIENT || MANIFESTATION OF DEFICIENCY
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
HOW TO PREVENT MICRONUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES?
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.