What is the Role of Micronutrients in Food Products?

What is the Role of Micronutrients in Food Products?
What is the Role of Micronutrients in Food Products?

Micronutrients are nutrients that are required in very small amounts in our diet on a daily basis in order to replenish any deficits that may occur in our body. The standard Indian diet is usually deficient in many of the micronutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the body. There are over fifty chemical elements in our body, which are required for various physiological functions such as growth, repair, and regulation of vital body functions. Micronutrients fall into two categories: (i) inorganic or elemental and (ii) vitamins. The first category includes the following: iron, iodine, fluoride, zinc, copper, cobalt, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, nickel, tin, silicon and vanadium. The second category includes all the fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1: Major Inorganic Micronutrients in the Diet

Micronutrient  (Inorganic)SourceRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)Deficiency Symptoms
IronLiver, red meat, veggies, wholemeal bread10-15 mgAnemia
ZincRed meat, dairy products, wholemeal bread7-10 mgDwarfism and hypogonadism
IodineMilk and dairy products140 µgGoiter
SeleniumFish, wheat is grown in selenium-rich soils60-75 µgHypothyroidism

cardiomyopathy (children), myopathy (adults).

CopperShellfish, liver, bread, cereal products, veggies1.2 mgDeficiency occurs only in children. Causes microcytic hypochromic anemia, neutropenia, retarded growth, weak bones
FluorideFluoride-treated drinking water, tea0.5 mg/kgDental caries

Adapted from Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

The requirement of micronutrients by the human body varies from milligrams per day for iron and zinc, to micrograms per day for many of the trace elements.

Other Essential Inorganic Micronutrients

These are required in trace amounts and include the following:

  • Chloride: Counter-ion to sodium and potassium
  • Cobalt: Required for vitamin B12
  • Sulfur: Constituent of the amino acids methionine and cysteine
  • Manganese: Required for or activates many enzymes
  • Chromium: Required for insulin action

Table 2: Major Vitamins in the Diet

Micronutrients (Vitamins)SourceRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)Deficiency Symptoms
Fat-soluble vitamins 
ALiver, milk & milk products, eggs, fish oils700 µgNight blindness; Xerophthalmia
DUV exposure to skin, fish oils, egg yolks, margarine10 µgRickets; Osteomalacia
ESunflower oil, veggies, nuts, seed oils4 mgMild hemolytic anemia; non-specific neurologic deficits
KGreen veggies, soya oil1 µg/kgBleeding; bruising
Water-soluble vitamins 
B1 (Thiamine)Pork, cereals, grains, beans0.8 mg per 2000 kcal energy intakeBeriberi
B2  (Riboflavin)Milk & milk products, breakfast cereals, bread1.3 mgPainful red tongue; a sore throat; cheilosis; angular stomatitis
B3 (Niacin)Meat, cereals17 mgPellagra
B6 (Pyridoxine)Meat, fish, potatoes, bananas, veggies1.4 mgChronic inflammation; impaired immune system; nervous disorders
B9 (Folate)Liver, green leafy veggies, fortified breakfast cereals200 µgAnemia; fatigue; mouth sores
B12 (Cobalamin)Animal products1.5 µgNeurologic deficits
B7 (Biotin)Egg yolk10-200 µgProblems with carbohydrate metabolism

(Ascorbic acid)

Citrus fruits40 mgScurvy


Adapted from Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Food Fortification: A Way to Increase the Micronutrients in Food?

Since many foods are deficient in micronutrients and coupled with the fact that most lay people are unaware about nutritional deficiencies and hence do not buy any nutritional supplements, there is a need to fortify major food items. Many foods nowadays are fortified with micronutrients. These include staple foods like rice, edible flour, edible oils, iodized table salt, and milk. Moreover, processed foods are also fortified. These include fruit juices, nectars, powdered soft drinks, breakfast cereals, noodles, pasta, jams, jellies, seasonings, biscuits, bread, confectionery, as well as milk products like yogurt, flavored milk, and ice cream.

What Does the FSSAI Say?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) as per the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011, has approved the use of micronutrients for food fortification purposes within recommended limits. The following food items have been approved by the FSSAI for fortification with micronutrients:

  • Infant milk food
  • Milk-cereal based complementary food
  • Fruit-based beverage mix / powdered fruit-based beverage
  • Pasta products: Macaroni, spaghetti, and vermicelli
  • Malt and malt-based foods
  • Sweets and confectionery

Therefore, it is quite evident that FSSAI, India’s apex authority on food safety and standards, endorses fortification of foods with micronutrients. Importantly, since micronutrients are recommended for infant food formulations, they can be considered to be safe as well as an essential component of food.


Micronutrients are an essential component of our daily diet that is essential to replenish any deficiencies in our diet. More awareness should be created about the benefits of micronutrient supplementation in improving health. The private sector, government, and international agencies need to make commitments for investing in micronutrient supplementation programs by way of food fortification and other strategies.

How Can We Help?

Arbro Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. has NABL accredited and FSSAI approved laboratories with state-of-the-art instruments for testing food samples. Our dedicated scientific staff are always abreast of the latest developments in the scientific arena and are well versed with the latest techniques and instrumentations to carry out testing of chemical constituents of various types of foodstuffs on a regular basis. If you would like to use our testing services, please feel free to contact us through the contact form or call us now on +91-11-45754575. We will be happy to provide you with a proposal for testing of micronutrients in your food samples.


  1. Davidson’s Principles & Practice of Medicine, 21st Edition, 2010. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
  2. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI): Direction under Section 16 (5) of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 dated 22nd Nov. 2017 regarding Operationalisation of Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2017 relating to standards for fortification of food. (Uploaded on 22.11.2017). Available at: http://www.fssai.gov.in/home/fss-legislation/Advisories—Orders.htm

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