Priority Micronutrient Density in Foods

Front Nutr. 2022 Mar 7:9:806566. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.806566. eCollection 2022.


Background: Despite concerted efforts to improve diet quality and reduce malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies remain widespread globally, especially in low- and middle-income countries and among population groups with increased needs, where diets are often inadequate in iron, zinc, folate, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin B12. There is a need to understand the density of these micronutrients and their bioavailability across diverse foods and the suitability of these foods to help meet requirements for populations with high burdens of micronutrient malnutrition.

Objective: We aimed to identify the top food sources of these commonly lacking micronutrients, which are essential for optimal health, to support efforts to reduce micronutrient malnutrition among various populations globally.

Methods: We built an aggregated global food composition database and calculated recommended nutrient intakes for five population groups with varying requirements. An approach was developed to rate foods according to their density in each and all priority micronutrients for various population groups with different nutrient requirements.

Results: We find that the top sources of priority micronutrients are organs, small fish, dark green leafy vegetables, bivalves, crustaceans, goat, beef, eggs, milk, canned fish with bones, mutton, and lamb. Cheese, goat milk, and pork are also good sources, and to a lesser extent, yogurt, fresh fish, pulses, teff, and canned fish without bones.

Conclusion: The results provide insight into which foods to prioritize to fill common micronutrient gaps and reduce undernutrition.

Keywords: animal-source foods; dark green leafy vegetables; fish; micronutrient deficiencies; nutrient density; organs; ruminant meat; shellfish.