Crucial to insuring the human body continues to function, micronutrients are essential vitamins and minerals that every person around the world needs in a balanced diet. Deficiencies in micronutrients – such as iron, magnesium, and vitamin A – can be life threatening, but having too much of a nutrient can also be detrimental to one’s health.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 1.3 million children die per year through lack of micronutrients, so it’s crucial that we learn as much as possible about them to make sure these deaths cease.
Different populations need varying levels of certain micronutrients in their diet, due to diverse dietary compositions and other contributing factors. Important research is being done on exactly what levels are needed for certain groups.
For the past 30 years, UEA’s Professor Susan Fairweather-Tait and Dr Lee Hooper have made major contributions within the field of micronutrients, and are currently participating in research projects to help learn more about how vital they are to keep the human body functioning healthily.
Prof Fairweather-Tait and Dr Hooper have been able to assess the effects of levels of micronutrients on a multitude of health issues after UEA committed to a research programme aiming to further knowledge on micronutrients.
Following this research, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the WHO have been able to clarify and update their dietary requirements for both adults and children.
It is hoped that by 2050 nutritious food will be supplied world wide, and the research is helping organisations such as HarvestPlus – an organisation Professor Fairweather-Tait has close links to – to understand what level of nutrients are needed in certain parts of the world.
The work of UEA’s scientists has helped to clarify the link between micronutrients and human health, and it is hoped that future research will continue to do so.
Future projects include a study which is currently underway exploring the bioavailability and speciation of iron in plant food. This has been confucted in response to recommendatons for reduced meat consumption.