‘Micronutrients’ is the term which refers to the vitamins and minerals in our diets and though generally only minute amounts of these are required, they are essential for a wide variety of roles in the human body. They are critical for a functional metabolism, optimal development, prevention and treatment of various diseases, maintaining cellular pH and many other bodily processes. Lack of micronutrients can lead to poor cognition and disability, stunted growth, increased disease risk and specific conditions associated with deficiencies, including rickets, scurvy, pellagra, beriberi and osteoporosis.
Vitamins can be water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins such as the B-vitamins and vitamin C do not tend to be stored in the body in great amounts and so require regular and continual replenishment. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K can be stored and are not as readily excreted, so they only require periodic and not necessarily daily replenishment. This accumulation increases the chance that these vitamins reach dangerous levels in the body, and toxicity can result.
Minerals include iron, zinc, magnesium, sodium potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iodine among others. They are important regulators of water distribution in the body’s cells and are involved in bone formation, metabolic and cell regulation, hormone action and in enzyme activity.
If you are eating a diverse range of whole, natural foods, you are likely to be meeting all your vitamin and mineral requirements and should not require any supplementation.
However, allergies, illness, food aversions or restricted dietary intake or restricted access to nutritious foods can sometimes jeopardize achieving adequate intakes of certain nutrients. Also, deficiency in one nutrient can affect the status of the other, for example selenium deficiency stops the activation of the iodine-containing thyroid hormone. Generally, the taking of supplements in Australia is too widespread, usually unnecessary and undertaken with insufficient care which can have unforeseen or unintended detrimental consequences. For example, supplements with too much manganese will aggravate an iron deficiency.
If you suspect that you may have some deficiencies, want to cease taking synthetic vitamins or are concerned about your micronutrient intake in any way, Life Nutrition can help with reviewing your dietary intake and identifying any imbalances. We can then work with you to substitute foods in your diet and improve your dietary intake over time, usually losing the need for such supplementation.
The following series of mini-articles on each micronutrient will be progressively uploaded as this website develops. Reading these from time to time will refresh and enhance your knowledge on these micronutrients, including some of the major roles which they play in your body, the consequences of both deficiencies and excess and their best food-based sources.