A diet that is complete and varied prevents micronutrient deficiencies.

Malnutrition refers to any deficiency, excess or imbalance in the intake of energy and/or nutrients. Approximately 41 million children under 5 years old are overweight or obese, some 159 million and 50 million are stunted and wasted, respectively. 1

According to WHO, malnutrition includes two conditions, undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition encompasses stunting, wasting, underweight and micronutrient deficient. Stunting is defined as low height for age. It results in decreased mental and physical health. Wasting or low weight for height increases the risk of infection in children hence there is increase chance of dying. Micronutrient deficiency denotes lack of intake of important vitamins and minerals. While, overnutrition includes patients who are overweight or obese.1,2

Macronutrients are the protein, carbohydrates and fats. These are needed in large quantities to provide the body with energy. Micronutrients on the other hand, are only needed in small amounts to support important biological processes.3,4

Micronutrient malnutrition, also known as ‘hidden hunger’ is caused by the lack of adequate micronutrients like vitamins and minerals in the diet. Approximately 2 billion are affected which is 1/3 of the world’s population. It contributes to vicious cycle of malnutrition, under development and poverty. And it has a long-range effects on health, earning capacity and productivity.3

A diet that is complete and varied prevents micronutrient deficiencies. Poor quality of food leads to this deficiency. There are ways to overcome this, one is implementation of food based strategies which are diet diversification and food fortification.4 The other is through food supplementation which promotes the consumption of foods that are naturally rich in micronutrients or are enriched thru fortification.3 Food supplements are intended to correct nutritional deficiencies, maintain an adequate intake of certain nutrients, or to support specific physiological functions. 4

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients. Vitamins include fat soluble vitamins which are A, D, E, K, and water soluble vitamins which are Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins which are thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9), and cyanocobalamin (B12). Some of the minerals are iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), and iodine (I). Vitamin and mineral food supplements derive their nutritional relevance primarily from the minerals and/or vitamins they contain. 4

There are various situations where food cannot meet the nutritional requirements. Both the quality and quantity may not be sufficient hence aside from emphasizing food diversification and fortification, supplementation example with vitamins, is essential to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.


1 World Health Organization 2020

2 Training Module. National Guidelines on the Management of Moderate Acute Malnutrition for Children Under Five Years 2020.

3 Thompson B and Amoroso L (eds.) Combating Micronutrient Deficiencies: Food-based Approaches. CAB International and FAO 2011.

4 Department of Health. Micronutrient Supplementation Manual of Operations 2010.