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What is the role of micronutrients in the body?

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Nutrition & Dietetics
answer
Micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals, are extremely important for good health. Vitamins are compounds that you need in small amounts for growth, reproduction, and overall good health. There are 13 vitamins, and you can get most of them by eating a variety of foods from each food group.

Minerals can be electrolytes (minerals that are charged ions in your body fluids) which help you maintain fluid balance. Minerals are also part of some enzymes, work with your immune system, and play an invaluable role in the structural growth of your body. You need adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals to be healthy.
dotFIT
dotFIT
answer
The human diet requires both macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc,) to grow, develop and function. Of the micronutrients, there are ~40 essential vitamins, minerals and other bio-chemicals which are responsible for virtually all metabolic and developmental processes that take place in the body. This includes energy production, cell division, replication, the growth, maintenance and function of our brains, heart, immune system, lung, skin, bone, muscle, etc. So obviously if you are even marginally short on your overall daily needs for extended periods, some part of the body will get less than it needs to function optimally. The body now must decide where the nutrients should go based on immediate rather than long-term needs. Human bodies have been programmed to favor short-term survival, including reproduction, over long-term health when there are shortages of essential nutrients. In other words, when there are less than optimal amounts of vitamins or minerals entering our bodies, they will be routed to the areas that are needed to keep us alive, such as energy production, blood formation, etc., at the expense of other areas of metabolism whose lack of optimal nutrition has only long-term consequences such as the age-related diseases. Since vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) are involved in all functions, it’s not hard to understand that chronic insufficiencies are a primary cause of age-related diseases and may be preventable or certainly lessened with a simple and inexpensive daily multivitamin and mineral.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.