Submitted to: Trade Journal Publication
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/3/2007
Publication Date: 1/1/2008
Citation: Allen, L.H. 2008. To what extent can food-based approaches improve micronutrient status?. Trade Journal Publication. 17(S1):103-105.
Interpretive Summary: A variety of foods is needed to provide the many micronutrients required by humans. The main micronutrient deficiencies of concern to public health are derived from different foods; vitamin A from dairy products, eggs, and fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids; iron, zinc and vitamin B-12 from animal source foods (ASF); and folate from legumes, some fruits and vegetables, dairy products and eggs. ASF are the richest dietary source of micronutrients. Iodine is an exception as intake depends on the iodine content of the local soil and water, and deficiency should be addressed by strategies such as universal salt iodization.
Technical Abstract: The main dietary sources of micronutrients are animal source foods, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Animal source foods are the only source of some micronutrients and the main dietary source of others. Micronutrient status and child development are improved by animal source food interventions in populations that habitually consume low amounts. Of particular concern is the high global prevalence of vitamin B12 depletion, which is associated with low animal source food intake. Some fruits and vegetables can supply vitamin A requirements even with the lower amounts of fat typically consumed in many countries. However, plant source foods are unlikely to supply enough iron, zinc and vitamin B12, even if strategies such as consuming ascorbic-acid rich foods to increase iron absorption are adopted. Identification of mineral-rich varieties of cereals and legumes may improve the future situation. Complementary foods for infants and young children are unlikely to meet micronutrient requirements, especially for iron and zinc, unless they are fortified. Other strategies to improve micronutrient status, such as fortification and supplementation, have limitations and should not replace food-based strategies. Moreover, food-based strategies will improve dietary quality in general and are consistent with the global need to lower the risk of chronic disease and overweight.