Micronutrients enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for growth and development. Without these micronutrients – which include Vitamin A, iodine, and iron – the body cannot function properly. Where someone has micronutrient deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in an intake of energy and/or nutrients, these factors result in malnutrition.

Every country in the world is affected by one or more forms of malnutrition with women, infants, children and adolescents being at particular risk – around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition (15). These mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries. At the same time, in these same countries, rates of childhood overweight and obesity are rising.

The World Health Organization (15) sets out three broad groups of conditions:

  • undernutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age);
  • micronutrient-related malnutrition, which includes micronutrient deficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals) or micronutrient excess;
  • overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers).