Micronutrients should be tailored towards your needs
Micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, as well as certain fatty acids and the large group of secondary plant compounds are an essential part of a healthy diet and are also used in food supplements. But what exactly is necessary for an optimal micronutrient intake? We explore this and many other questions pertinent to micronutrients on this page.
Micronutrient needs for the individual
Each one of us is different, and our required calorie intake varies based on our lifestyle. For example, a high-performance athlete burns more than an office worker, and equally, a 15-year-old consumes more energy than his 80-year-old grandmother. Aside from our calorie intake, other factors such as chronic diseases or special life situations (such as pregnancy and lactation) help dictate our need for micronutrients, which are often referred to as nutrients. It's worth keeping in mind that certain individuals are at particular risk of poor mineral and vitamin supply.
Risk groups for micronutrient deficiencies
- People who are on a diet for weight loss, or for other reasons may be consuming too few micronutirients
- People with extremely unbalanced dietary habits, such as nothing but fast food or even "Fruitarians", who eat based on ideological reasons, but still have very one-sided diets. Either way, the lack of variation (all-or-nothing approach) can be a cause of micronutrient deficiency.
- People with high alcohol consumption
- People with digestive disorders
- Patients who have to take certain medicines regularly (e.g., cortisone or some antibiotics)
- People who don't get much sunlight and risking a vitamin D deficiency
Despite food diversity and a varied diet, many men and women do not reach the recommended reference values for vitamin and micronutrient intake. (Share in %; National Nutrition Survey II, Germany, 2008).
Is my micronutrient consumption covered in my diet?
Theoretically, healthy people can cover their supply of micronutrients by eating a healthy and balanced diet without special needs or supplements. The experts of the German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommend 400 grams of vegetables and 250 grams of fruit a day to eat (important for iodine intake!). It's recommended to have fish and/ or whole grains once or twice per week, not necessarily more or less. However, a major government study on diet of the population in Germany show that 87% of respondents did not achieve the required amount vegetables. 59% did not eat enough fruit and 16% of the study participants had been a whole month with no fish consumed. It's not surprising therefore, that many people do not reach the reference values for micronutrient intake (see above chart). Even if it does not always have to result in clinical vitamin deficiencies, poor diets, and therefore a poor supply of micronutrients influence many processes in the body - from the immune system to our day-to-day moods.
Can you overdose on micronutrients?
The Swiss/ German renaissance physician, Paracelsus said: The dose makes the poison. When taking supplements, the micronutrient needs should be considered. Good advice from your doctor or your pharmacist always helps. By looking through the individual nutrient types in our Healthy Living section of the site, you'll get a better idea of the typical recommended values for nutrient intake to avoid vitamin deficiency, diseases such as scurvy and rickets and most importantly, to keep the body healthy. These typical values don't apply to pregnant or lactating women, so special advice based on your circumstances should be acquired.