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Addressing_Micronutrient_Malnutrition

Addressing_Micronutrient_Malnutrition - Addressing...

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Addressing Micronutrient Malnutrition The following article is adapted and edited from the paper “Best Practices in Addressing Micronutrient Malnutrition” by  Judith McGuire, The World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington DC, 20433.   Vitamins and minerals cannot be synthesized by the human body. They must be provided by the diet. The amounts  needed are small - micrograms or milligrams a day - so they are called “micro” nutrients. They are necessary for the  regulatory systems in the body, for efficient energy metabolism and for other functions (cognition, immune system,  reproduction). In this paper the focus is on vitamin A, iron and iodine even though there are many more micronutrients  including some that are suspected of being deficient in some developing countries. The three focal nutrients were  selected because they are known to be deficient widely in developing countries, we know how to treat them, and we can  measure progress unambiguously. Deficiencies of these nutrients cause illness, death, learning disabilities, and impaired  work capacity.  The causes of deficiency vary from nutrient to nutrient and across regions. Iodine deficiency is largely an environmental  problem - iodine-deficient soils and water exist in the high mountain ranges and in flood plains where the primordial iodine  has been depleted over millennia. Plants grown in such soils and water lack iodine, so human beings and animals eating  those plants become iodine deficient (iodine is not a necessary nutrient for most plants). It is not unusual to see goitres in  cows and sheep just as in human beings. The animals exhibit low wool production, inadequate growth, and poor  reproductive performance. Human beings are affected even more profoundly. Certain foods - cassava and cabbage, for  instance - impair the utilization of iodine in the body and can precipitate iodine deficiency in marginally adequate  populations. Good food sources of iodine (seaweed and seafood) are highly perishable, culture specific, often expensive  and are rarely eaten by affected populations. Food fortification is usually necessary for prevention of iodine deficiency in  iodine-depleted geographic areas. Iodized salt is the commonest micronutrient-fortified food.  Iron deficiency is largely due to the low absorption of iron from foods. Red meat and animal blood (consumed in many  traditional societies) are the best sources of highly absorbable iron, but meat is not affordable or religiously acceptable to  large numbers of people in developing countries. For infants, most iron comes from breastmilk in which the iron is highly 
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