An Introduction to Micronutrients

Updated on March 28th, 2024

As important as macronutrients are for providing energy, micronutrients are essential for the function of the body. Micronutrients are one of the major groups of nutrients that our body needs. While they are not a source of energy, they are essential for our body to work properly.
 
So who are these powerful small nutrients? Why are they good for us and how can we incorporate them in our diet? Keep reading to know what they do apart from making our body function properly.
 

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are key nutrients that the body cannot synthesize, such as vitamins, inorganic minerals and trace elements so this makes their dietary supply essential. The amount that the body needs of these elements varies but it is smaller in quantity than the macronutrients. [1]
micronutrients
 
 

Why are micronutrients good for you?

Micronutrients play different roles in the body such as cellular functions, neurotransmission, fluid balance or tissue structure, among others. [1] We will cover the functions of each micronutrient found in our products individually, together with the sources where they can be obtained and the amounts present in our products, in relation to EFSA’s established Daily Recommended Intakes for an average adult.
 
An important term we want to define before we start is bioavailability. For a nutrient to have a health benefit, it needs to survive initial stages of digestion to reach the specific absorption point in the body where it can be utilized. The amount of a nutrient that is absorbed from the diet and used by the body for normal functions is called bioavailability. The factors that can influence this are shown in the figure below:
factors of bioavailability
 
 

Vitamins

Vitamins fall into two groups depending on their solubility:  fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K, while water-soluble vitamins include the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. [1]
 

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A (added as retinyl acetate)

There are two forms of vitamin A that are available in the human diet: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A. Preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) is mostly found in foods from animal sources, including dairy products, fish, meat (especially liver) and in fortified cereals. Most dietary provitamin A (carotenoids) comes from leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, and some vegetable oils. [3] 
 
Vitamin A gets stored in the liver until further use, and metabolites of vitamin A are essential for vision, immune function, epithelial barrier function and cell differentiation. The latter meaning that cells are converted into specialized cells so they can better perform a specific function. [4-5]
 

Vitamin D (added as cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D is a molecule needed in humans and other vertebrates to maintain the calcium balance stable, which allows to keep normal skeleton, cellular functions and muscle contraction. [6] This vitamin is naturally present in very few foods, the reason why you can find most products fortified with this small but powerful nutrient. Vitamin D is also produced internally when ultraviolet rays from sunlight touch the skin, which triggers its synthesis.
 
Curious fact: Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplements is biologically inactive and must therefore undergo two chemical reactions (hydroxylations) in the body for its activation. 
vitamin D
 
You can find Vitamin D in the flesh of fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks, primarily in the form of vitamin D3, which is the most bioavailable form of it. In some mushrooms vitamin D2 can be found, and in fortified foods like the Jimmy Joy meals which contain vegan vitamin D3 from fermentation. [7]
 

Vitamin E (added as DL-alpha tocopheryl acetate)

Vitamin E (or α-tocopherol) is essential in the human body for its cell-membrane protection and antioxidant activity, which prevents the adverse effects of free radicals. Free radicals can be formed during normal internal processes in our cells and tissues (such as energy production in the mitochondria), but also, from external sources (like cigarette smoke). These molecules have an unpaired electron seeking stability by looking for another electron to pair with from their surroundings. Problems arise when free radicals steal electrons from important cell molecules in the body like DNA or proteins, making them lose their stability. As a result, the DNA sequence can be altered, potentially causing mutations. [8-10]
 

Vitamin K (added as menaquinone-7)

Blood clotting may represent the difference between life and death. It occurs within seconds, involving a complex interplay of proteins and minerals. Vitamin K is needed for the activation of some of the proteins essential for clotting. Apart from this, vitamin K contributes to bone health by aiding in the metabolism of bone proteins, thereby ensuring adequate bone density. [10]
 
Vitamin K exists in two primary forms, K1 also known as phylloquinone and K2, also known as menaquinones (MK). Vitamin K2 MK7 has a great impact on promoting healthy bones and boasts a longer half-life than K1. This extended half-life contributes to its higher bioavailability, making it an optimal choice as the source of vitamin K in our meals. [11]
 

Water-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin C (added as ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C plays three important roles in the body. Firstly, it works as an antioxidant, similar to vitamin E, thus, protecting the body against free radicals in cells and body fluids. Particularly, it prevents iron oxidation in the intestine. Secondly, vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein vital for cell integrity. Lastly, it facilitates the synthesis of other important compounds like fatty acid transporters (carnitine), neurotransmitters (serotonin) and hormones (thyroxine). [10] Since the body doesn't store vitamin C efficiently, regular replenishment of this vitamin is needed. [12]
vitamin C
 
The B-vitamin group is relevant for extracting energy from macronutrients to fuel your body. Within this group, various B-vitamins serve as cofactors, assisting enzymes in performing their action effectively. [10]
 

Thiamin (added as thiamine mononitrate or thiamine hydrochloride)

Also known as vitamin B1, it plays a role in energy metabolism by acting as a coenzyme. It participates in essential body reactions, including the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-coA, which is a key step in obtaining energy from macronutrients. Moreover, this vitamin is present in nerve cell membranes assisting neurons’ activity and muscle activity. [10]
 

Riboflavin (added as riboflavin or riboflavin 5-phosphate sodium)

Also known as vitamin B2, it helps to convert food into usable energy. Additionally, it assists in the function of several antioxidant enzymes and contributes to the metabolism of fats, drugs, and steroids. [10] It's worth noting that riboflavin is sensitive to light and can easily be destroyed upon exposure. This is one of the reasons why we encourage our customers to store our products in a cool, dry place to maintain their properties.
 

Niacin (added as niacinamide)

Also known as vitamin B3, it acts in a similar way as riboflavin in energy metabolism. In addition, one of its forms plays a protective role against neurological degeneration. [10] Some studies have shown that niacin can improve cholesterol levels. In medial practice, it is prescribed to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — often referred to as the "good" cholesterol that helps remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol, from your bloodstream. [13]
bad cholesterol vs good cholesterol
 

Vitamin B6 (added as pyridoxine hydrochloride)

This vitamin is important for the metabolism, particularly for the breakdown and construction of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins in the human body. In line with this, vitamin B6 drives the production of essential hormones needed for growth. Additionally, it contributes to the well functioning of the immune system, nervous system and blood production. [14,15]

Folate/Folic acid (added as folic acid)

Folate is a general term referring to both natural folates in food and folic acid, which is the synthetic form used in supplements and fortified food. Interestingly, the bioavailability of folic acid has been found to be higher than natural folates due to its structure and the absorption site. [16, 17]
 
Folate is critical in DNA metabolism, amino acid synthesis, as well as in methylation. Does it sound familiar? Well, if that's not the case, don't worry! We know this is a funky word but the only important thing you should know is that this type of reaction is necessary for the cells in our bodies to develop and survive the different processes in which they participate.
 
Moreover, the coenzyme form of this vitamin is part of an enzymatic complex that aids the conversion of vitamin B12 into one of its active forms, what a nice chain of reactions right? (see vitamin B12 below). [10] It is particularly important to get enough folate during pregnancy since folate deficiency during this period can lead to neural tube defects. [18]
 

Vitamin B12 (added as Cyanocobalamin)

Vitamin B12 stands out as the most complex vitamin chemically. Unlike plants or animals, only bacteria have the machinery to produce cyanocobalamin. Plants will not absorbe much of it from the soil, making them less reliable sources compared to animal products. Foods like meat (liver, shellfish), eggs and dairy products contain vitamin B12. Certain bacteria in the human gut flora can produce vitamin B12. However, the bioavailability of B12 synthesized by these bacteria is very limited. [30]
This vitamin is vital for DNA funcion and metabolism. Numerous clinical studies have found a correlation between lower B12 levels and increased DNA damage. In addition to its role as a cofactor for certain enzymes, it acts as a potent antioxidant, combating oxidative stress, the primary culprit behind DNA damage. [18, 19]
We choose cyanocobalamin produced through fermentation because it perfectly fits our intended use. An appropriate overdosing based on the bioavailability of different vitamin forms is 2-4 times more than the established adequate intake (which is 4µg for B12) without exceeding any upper limits if established. [20,21,22]

We choose cyanocobalamin produced through fermentation because it perfectly fits our intended use. 

An appropriate overdosing based on the bioavailability of different vitamin forms is 2-4 times more than the established adequate intake (which is 4µg for B12) without exceeding any upper limits if established. [20,21,22]

 

Biotin (added as D-biotin)

vitamin B7
 

Also known as vitamin B7, it serves as a coenzyme that carries activated carbon dioxide, which is relevant for obtaining energy from macronutrients. Moreover, biotin plays multiple roles in the body: it contributes to the structural integrity of hair and nail cells, aids in the synthesis and absorption of fatty acids and amino acids, and helps in the regulation of cell signaling. What a player right? [10, 23]

Pantothenic acid (added as calcium D-pantothenate)

Also known as vitamin B5, it forms part of coenzyme A, which is involved in many metabolic pathways. As a result, pantothenic acid is involved in the synthesis of lipids, haemoglobin, neurotransmitters and steroid hormones. [10]

vitamin B5

Minerals

The essential minerals we will cover are Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Iron and Zinc [1].

Potassium (added as a complex of potassium phosphate and/or potassium chloride)

It is a vital electrolyte, key for maintaining electrolyte and fluid balance, as well as cell integrity. It works in tandem with sodium, its counterpart to regulate various physiological processes. Potassium plays a central role in muscle contraction, including the heartbeat, and is crucial for maintaining normal blood pressure and nerve transmission. [10, 24]
potassium

Chloride (added as Potassium Chloride)

It maintains normal fluid and electrolyte balance and it is part of the acid of the stomach needed for proper digestion. [10]

Sodium (naturally occurring in the ingredients)

Helps maintaining the acid-base equilibrium and is key for nerve impulse transmission as well as muscle contraction. The equilibrium acid basic is maintained in the kidneys, which excrete hydrogen ions (H+) in exchange for sodium ion (Na+). [10]
Nevertheless, excessive amounts of sodium make it hard for the kidneys to keep up with the large amounts of sodium consumed. This results in the body holding onto extra water to dilute, leading to increased blood volume, creating a higher pressure on blood vessels. [25] Something we take very much into consideration by ensuring our products don’t provide you more salt than necessary. In this case, less is more. 

Calcium (added as calcium carbonate)

calcium
In the body, 99% of the calcium is in bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is found in the body fluid. This mineral has two primary functions within the body's calcium reservoir. First, it constitutes a relevant part of the structures of bones. Second, it acts as a reserve for maintaining optimal calcium levels in bodily fluid. Beyond its structural role, calcium performs various essential functions in the body. It contributes to the regulation of normal blood pressure, participates in the blood clotting process and facilitates the release of relaxing factors from blood vessels. [10]

Phosphorus (added as Ferric Pyrophosphate, Magnesium- and Potassium- Phosphate)

This mineral is very widespread in the body, being present mostly in bones and teeth but also, it is present in all cells, where it participates in vital functions such as DNA and RNA structure. It plays a role in obtaining energy from macronutrients. It does so by forming part of ATP, which is the energy molecule of cells. In addition, it forms part of phospholipids, which are important structural components of the cell membrane. [10]

Magnesium (added as magnesium phosphate, magnesium chloride or magnesium oxide)

This mineral helps to maintain bone health and it is also needed for cellular energy production. It is necessary for various metabolic processes such as the utilization of glucose and the synthesis of vitamins, proteins, and fats within the body. [10]

Iron (added as Ferric Pyrophosphate)

Iron for oxygen transport
This mineral is vital due to its role in forming essential molecules like haemoglobin. Without iron, haemoglobin (a protein crucial for transporting oxygen in the blood) would not exist, and without haemoglobin, oxygen would not be transported through the blood to all our body, catastrophic right? Also, it forms part of myoglobin, which has the same function as haemoglobin, bringing oxygen to the muscles. [10] Also, iron supports the health of cognitive tissue. [26]

Zinc (added as zinc gluconate)

zinc for healing
This mineral plays many important roles in the body. For example, it is involved in wound healing, immune reactions, vitamin A transportation, sperm formation and normal fetal development. [10] Zinc also plays a key role in maintaining vision, and it is present in high concentrations in the eye. Deficiency i zinc can lead to vision alterations, and severe deficiency can cause changes in the retina (the part of the eye where images isarefocused). [27]

Trace Elements

Among the trace elements, the essential ones are: Copper, Chromium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium and Iodine [1]. 

Copper (added as copper sulfate or copper gluconate)

Cooper is needed to form haemoglobin, which is relevant as we mentioned previously to carry out oxygen in the blood towards the different cells in the body. Moreover, it is a component of many enzymes involved in various metabolic processes. [10]

Manganese (added as manganese sulfate or manganese gluconate)

It is involved in bone formation and it acts as a cofactor of various enzymes, meaning that it helps enzymes to carry out their functions. [10] By assisting the enzymes carrying out their function, manganese is involved in amino acid, cholesterol, glucose, and carbohydrate metabolism. Manganese also plays a role in blood clotting and hemostasis in conjunction with vitamin K. [28, 29]

Selenium (added as sodium selenite)

selenium
It regulates thyroid hormones, which are key for development and differentiation of cells in the body, as well as for regulating metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Moreover, selenium is part of enzymes that protect cells from oxidation, helping to maintain overall cellular health. [10]

Chromium (added as chromium chloride or chromium picolinate)

It potentiates insulin action, making it integral to glucose metabolism. Insulin plays a critical role in the metabolism and storage of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the body. Chromium is also directly involved in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, but more research is needed to determine the full range of its roles in the body. [10]
chromium

Molybdenum (added as Ssodium molybdate)

It is a cofactor of several enzymes, meaning that it assists enzymes to perform their activity. [10]

Iodine (added as potassium iodide) 

It is a compound of thyroid hormones, which are essential for development and differentiation of cells in the body, as well as for regulating the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. [10] Thyroid hormones are also required for proper skeletal and central nervous system development in fetuses and infants. [29]
For all our meals, one portion contains at least 20% of the Daily Recommended Intakes established by EFSA, if you would like to consult these amounts please visit our individual product pages.

Sources

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