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Micronutrients are nutrients required by organisms throughout life in small quantities to orchestrate a range of physiological functions. For people, they include dietary trace minerals in amounts generally less than 100 milligrams per day, as opposed to macrominerals, which are required in larger quantities. The microminerals or trace elements include at least iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc and molybdenum. Micronutrients also include vitamins, which are organic compounds required as nutrients in trace amounts.
At the 1990 World Summit for Children, the gathered nations identified deficiencies in two microminerals and one micronutrient – iodine, iron, and vitamin A – as being particularly common and posing public health risks in developing countries. The Summit set goals for elimination of these deficiencies. The Ottawa-based Micronutrient Initiative was formed in response to this challenge with the mission to undertake research and fund and implement micronutrient programming.
As programming around these micronutrients grew, new research in the 1990s led to the implementation of folate and zinc supplementation programmes as well.
Priority programs include supplementation with vitamin A for children 6–59 months, zinc supplementation as a treatment for diarrhoeal disease, iron and folate supplementation for women of child-bearing age, salt iodization, staple food fortification, multiple micronutrient powders, biofortification of crops and behaviour-centred nutrition education.
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