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Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:103-5.

To what extent can food-based approaches improve micronutrient status?

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USDA, ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, 430 West Health Sciences Drive, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


The main dietary sources of micronutrients are animal source foods, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Animal source foods are the only source of some micronutrients and the main dietary source of others. Micronutrient status and child development are improved by animal source food interventions in populations that habitually consume low amounts. Of particular concern is the high global prevalence of vitamin B12 depletion, which is associated with low animal source food intake. Some fruits and vegetables can supply vitamin A requirements even with the lower amounts of fat typically consumed in many countries. However, plant source foods are unlikely to supply enough iron, zinc and vitamin B12, even if strategies such as consuming ascorbic-acid rich foods to increase iron absorption are adopted. Identification of mineral-rich varieties of cereals and legumes may improve the future situation. Complementary foods for infants and young children are unlikely to meet micronutrient requirements, especially for iron and zinc, unless they are fortified. Other strategies to improve micronutrient status, such as fortification and supplementation, have limitations and should not replace food-based strategies. Moreover, food-based strategies will improve dietary quality in general and are consistent with the global need to lower the risk of chronic disease and overweight.

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