What is the Role of Micronutrients in Food Products?

What is the Role of Micronutrients in Food Products?
What is the Role of Micronutrients in Food Products?

Despite being an essential part of the food, most people do not know about micronutrients in food. It’s important to expand our knowledge and learn more about these vital nutrients.

Here, we have included everything about micronutrients, from what are micronutrients to their types and their role in your food products. So let’s begin with the details.

What Are Micronutrients in Food?

Micronutrients are nutrients that are required in very small amounts in our diet on a daily basis in order to replenish any deficits that may occur in our body. The standard Indian diet is usually deficient in many of the micronutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the body.The effect of this deficiency of micronutrients in food can be seen on the overall health of the people of the country. 

There are over fifty chemical elements in our body, which are required for various physiological functions such as growth, repair, and regulation of vital body functions. Micronutrients fall into two categories: (i) inorganic or elemental and (ii) vitamins.

The first category includes the following: iron, iodine, fluoride, zinc, copper, cobalt, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, nickel, tin, silicon and vanadium. The second category includes all the fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1: Major Inorganic Micronutrients in the Diet

Micronutrient  (Inorganic) Source Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) Deficiency Symptoms
Iron Liver, red meat, veggies, wholemeal bread 10-15 mg Anemia
Zinc Red meat, dairy products, wholemeal bread 7-10 mg Dwarfism and hypogonadism
Iodine Milk and dairy products 140 µg Goiter
Selenium Fish, wheat is grown in selenium-rich soils 60-75 µg Hypothyroidism 

cardiomyopathy (children), myopathy (adults).

Copper Shellfish, liver, bread, cereal products, veggies 1.2 mg Deficiency occurs only in children. Causes microcytic hypochromic anemia, neutropenia, retarded growth, weak bones
Fluoride Fluoride-treated drinking water, tea 0.5 mg/kg Dental caries

Adapted from Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

The requirement of micronutrients by the human body varies from milligrams per day for iron and zinc, to micrograms per day for many of the trace elements.

Other Essential Inorganic Micronutrients

These are required in trace amounts and include the following:

  • Chloride: Counter-ion to sodium and potassium
  • Cobalt: Required for vitamin B12
  • Sulfur: Constituent of the amino acids methionine and cysteine
  • Manganese: Required for or activates many enzymes
  • Chromium: Required for insulin action

Table 2: Major Vitamins in the Diet

Micronutrients (Vitamins) Source Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) Deficiency Symptoms
Fat-soluble vitamins  
A Liver, milk & milk products, eggs, fish oils 700 µg Night blindness; Xerophthalmia
D UV exposure to skin, fish oils, egg yolks, margarine 10 µg Rickets; Osteomalacia
E Sunflower oil, veggies, nuts, seed oils 4 mg Mild hemolytic anemia; non-specific neurologic deficits
K Green veggies, soya oil 1 µg/kg Bleeding; bruising
Water-soluble vitamins  
B1 (Thiamine) Pork, cereals, grains, beans 0.8 mg per 2000 kcal energy intake Beriberi
B2  (Riboflavin) Milk & milk products, breakfast cereals, bread 1.3 mg Painful red tongue; a sore throat; cheilosis; angular stomatitis
B3 (Niacin) Meat, cereals 17 mg Pellagra
B6 (Pyridoxine) Meat, fish, potatoes, bananas, veggies 1.4 mg Chronic inflammation; impaired immune system; nervous disorders
B9 (Folate) Liver, green leafy veggies, fortified breakfast cereals 200 µg Anemia; fatigue; mouth sores
B12 (Cobalamin) Animal products 1.5 µg Neurologic deficits
B7 (Biotin) Egg yolk 10-200 µg Problems with carbohydrate metabolism
C  

(Ascorbic acid)

Citrus fruits 40 mg Scurvy

 

Adapted from Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Role of Micronutrients in Maintaining Our Health

Now that we know what are micronutrients, their types, and the quantity of each nutrient to be consumed, we should also understand their benefits. 

In simpler terms, it can also be said that the basic role of micronutrients is that it lets our body function and grow properly. However, their effect on our overall health does not end here.

As micronutrients are a crucial part of each of our body’s operations, they can also act as antioxidants and disease-fighting components. The only thing we should consider here is that these nutrients have to be consumed in an appropriate amount to get all these benefits. 

Research is still going on to find out what are micronutrients’ exact effect after overconsumption. Hence, it is better that we keep the quantity near to recommended values and do not go overboard with them. 

Why We Need External Micronutrients in Food? 

The reason why we need to consume micronutrient-rich foods is that our body can not prepare these nutrients by itself. Thus, it requires external supplies. On the flip side, some vitamins and minerals can be found in various plants and animals.

They either create it or absorb it from nature. When we consume these plants and animals, our body breaks them down and digests all the available micronutrients. 

However, this is not the sole source of micronutrients because no specific plant or animal is known to provide all essential nutrients. That is why it is often suggested to include a variety of foods into our diet so that we can get different nutrients and our body can grow properly.

Food Fortification: A Way to Increase the Micronutrients in Food?

Since many foods are deficient in micronutrients and coupled with the fact that most lay people are unaware about nutritional deficiencies and hence do not buy any nutritional supplements, there is a need to fortify major food items. Many foods nowadays are fortified with micronutrients.

These include staple foods like rice, edible flour, edible oils, iodized table salt, and milk. Moreover, processed foods are also fortified. These include fruit juices, nectars, powdered soft drinks, breakfast cereals, noodles, pasta, jams, jellies, seasonings, biscuits, bread, confectionery, as well as milk products like yogurt, flavored milk, and ice cream.

Micronutrients Deficiency Effects

If we do not consume micronutrient-rich foods in proper quantities, we will end up creating several problems. As stated earlier, these nutrients are crucial for each function in our body.

Therefore, their deficiency will affect us severely. Each micronutrient deficiency has its own effects. For instance, a lack of vitamin D can cause fatigue and muscle weakness. But, on the other hand, iron deficiency can cause other problems, as well, such as pale skin and chest pain.

What Does the FSSAI Say?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as per the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011, has approved the use of micronutrients for food fortification purposes within recommended limits. The following food items have been approved by the FSSAI for fortification with micronutrients:

  • Infant milk food
  • Milk-cereal based complementary food
  • Fruit-based beverage mix / powdered fruit-based beverage
  • Pasta products: Macaroni, spaghetti, and vermicelli
  • Malt and malt-based foods
  • Sweets and confectionery

Therefore, it is quite evident that FSSAI, India’s apex authority on food safety and standards, endorses fortification of foods with micronutrients. Importantly, since micronutrients are recommended for infant food formulations, they can be considered to be safe as well as an essential component of food.

Conclusion

Micronutrients are an essential component of our daily diet that is essential to replenish any deficiencies in our diet. More awareness should be created about the benefits of micronutrient supplementation in improving health. The private sector, government, and international agencies need to make commitments for investing in micronutrient supplementation programs by way of food fortification and other strategies.

How Can We Help?

Arbro Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. has NABL accredited and FSSAI approved laboratories with state-of-the-art instruments for testing food samples. Our dedicated scientific staff are always abreast of the latest developments in the scientific arena and are well versed with the latest techniques and instrumentations to carry out testing of chemical constituents of various types of foodstuffs on a regular basis. This way, we can ensure that your manufactured food items have the proper amount of micronutrients and are of high quality in terms of nutrition. 

If you would like to use our testing services, please feel free to contact us through the contact form or call us now on +91-11-45754575. We will be happy to provide you with a proposal for testing of micronutrients in your food samples.

References

  1. Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
  2. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI): Direction under Section 16 (5) of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 dated 22nd Nov. 2017 regarding Operationalisation of Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2017 relating to standards for fortification of food. (Uploaded on 22.11.2017). Available at: http://www.fssai.gov.in/home/fss-legislation/Advisories—Orders.htm
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