- Brian Bender, PhD
3 Global Micronutrient Deficiencies: How You Can Help
Persistence of Global Micronutrient Deficiencies
Although the developed world has largely eliminated many acute diseases that stem from micronutrient deficiencies, like scurvy and rickets, most of us still do not consume recommended amounts of most vitamins and minerals on a regular basis. This chronic, sub-clinical intake of micronutrients may have negative long-term health consequences, despite the lack of acute symptoms.
But much of the world still suffers from acute diseases that stem directly from an insufficient intake of key micronutrients. In fact, the Global Nutrition Report indicates roughly two billion individuals worldwide suffer from lack of sufficient vitamins or minerals. That’s one out of every three global citizens.
The problem exists for several most micronutrients to varying degrees. But here are three global micronutrient deficiencies that afflict large swaths of the world that are completely preventable with better access to better diets.
1. Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. A quarter million to a half million children go blind every year due to a vitamin A deficiency.
Furthermore, this deficiency can increase the risk of infection, hurting young children and pregnant mothers.
Efforts from WHO, UNICEF, and others have worked to combat this issue by promoting breastfeeding, vitamin A supplementation, vitamin-A rich diets, and fortification that have averted over 1.25 million deaths since 1998 in over 40 countries.
“Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children.”
2. Iodine Deficiency
Iodine deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable brain damage. Deficiency during pregnancy can cause many birth-related complications including some irreversible forms of mental retardation.
Since 1993, one of the primary methods used to help reduce this deficiency is the use of iodized salt. The progress has been dramatic, and the WHO and UNICEF believe we have the potential to completely eradicate iodine deficiency, marking a major global health achievement.
“Iodine deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable brain damage.”
3. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is the world’s most common and widespread nutritional disorder. Not only does iron deficiency anemia affect roughly half of all women and 40% of children in developing nations, but iron deficiency is one of the major nutritional disorders also affecting industrialized nations.
And it’s serious. In addition to lost productivity and diminished quality of life, anemia is responsible for nearly 20% of all maternal deaths. This micronutrient deficiency is a challenge, as early and ongoing detection is difficult. But iron-rich diets and supplementation are helping.
“Iron deficiency is the world’s most common and widespread nutritional disorder.”
How You Can Help
Tackling global micronutrient deficiencies requires effort and support from many fronts. There are two immediate ways to start helping. First is to either donate or support organizations working hard to eliminate these conditions that afflict so much of the world. These include the WHO, UNICEF, Nutrition International, the World Food Programme, & GAIN, among others.
Second, is to help yourself and your family. Make sure are eating a well-balanced diet that includes all vitamins and minerals. Because while these are prevalent on a global scale, micronutrient deficiencies are highly personalized and sub-clinical intake needs to be addressed.
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