Roles of Micronutrients and the Potential Consequences of Deficiencies

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What are micronutrients and why are they called micronutrients?

Micronutrients are needed by the body in very small amounts. they are essential for the body to maintain its proper functioning. Micronutrients divide into minerals and vitamins. Vitamins are required for many functions such as energy metabolism, functioning of the immune system, proper blood clotting and many more. The functions of minerals are to aid in bone growth and health, equalize fluid levels within the body and many more. The definition of micronutrients is „Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed by the body in very small amounts” (1). They are called “micro-nutrients” because the body needs them in much smaller amounts than macronutrients. Micronutrients must be obtained from the food as the human body is not capable of producing vitamins and minerals. They are referred to as essential nutrients because they have to be supplied with food or supplements.

All micronutrients play their roles. Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins from the B group along with vitamin C can be consumed with water and do not require fat to increase their absorption. Vitamins such as A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and absorb better in the presence of fat.

Roles of micronutrients

According to scientific sources (2), micronutrients serve various purposes. Each of them can serve a different function. It is important to know the function of the micronutrients so if any of them are lacking in your diet, you can have a general understanding of what might happen if you don’t react quickly. Long term micronutrient deficiency can lead to dangerous illnesses but before I get to that, allow me to explain what the roles of each micronutrient are.

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins play different roles such as :

  • B1 – Is required to convert nutrients into energy
  • B2 – Is required for energy production, proper cell function and fat metabolism
  • B3 – Drives the production of energy from food
  • B5 – Is required for the fatty acid synthesis
  • B6 – Allows glycolysis from stored glycogen for energy production and creation of erythrocytes
  • B7 – Aids fatty acids, amino acids and glucose metabolism
  • B9 – Is necessary for proper cell division
  • B12 – Is required for red blood cells formation, proper nerve and brain function
  • C – Aids in collagen synthesis and supports the immune system

Fat-soluble vitamins

  • A – Aids vision and organ function
  • D – Promotes immune function and assists in the absorption of calcium and growth of bones
  • E – Is an antioxidant (protects cells from damage) and assists in immune function
  • K – Is necessary for proper blood clotting and bone development

Macrominerals

  • Calcium – Is necessary for teeth and bone health assists contraction of blood vessels and muscle function
  • Phosphorus – Is a part of cell and bone membrane structure
  • Magnesium – Assists over 300 enzyme reactions, which include blood pressure regulation
  • Sodium – Is an electrolyte that maintains proper blood pressure and body fluid balance
  • Chloride: Helps maintain fluid balance and is utilised to make digestive juices
  • Potassium: Is an electrolyte that maintains fluids in cells and aids in nerve transmission and muscle function
  • Sulphur – Is a part of every living tissue

Trace minerals

  • Iron – Aids in providing oxygen to muscles and hormone production
  • Manganese – Assists metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and cholesterol
  • Copper – Is required for connective tissue formation and proper brain and nervous system function
  • Zinc – Aids immune system function, wound healing and growth
  • Iodine – Is necessary for proper thyroid functioning
  • Fluoride – Is required for bone and teeth development
  • Selenium – Is required for thyroid health, reproduction and defence against reactive oxygen and nitrogen species

What are the consequences of micronutrient deficiency?

Deficiencies of micronutrients can cause a wide range of health conditions, some of which might be dangerous. Some of these conditions might cause a noticeable reduction in the energy levels to the point that it might become a clinical issue. Other causes are mental clarity drop, brain fog and reduction of performance during physical activity such as sports or ADLs (Activities of Daily Life).

References:

  1. WHO, Micronutrients, accessed on 06/05/21, available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/micronutrients
  2. Healthline, Micronutrients: Types, Functions, Benefits and More, accessed on 06/05/21, available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/micronutrients

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