With the backing of the world’s largest governments and visionary billionaires, international organizations striving to address malnutrition worldwide are failing. In low and middle-income countries, the risk of being deficient in one of six crucial micronutrients is still 2 in 3
Even at home, high-income countries average 1 in 3 citizens deficient in zinc, folate, vitamin A, iron, vitamin B12, and calcium, often within the populations most vulnerable to forms of malnutrition including children 2–4 years, adolescents, non-pregnant and non-lactating women of reproductive age, and pregnant women. In high-income countries this is also paired with a tremendous over-consumption of calories.
Seeking to quantify the best ways of addressing these worldwide, cross-cultural deficiencies, a team of researchers from GAIN: the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, set out to build an aggregated global food composition database, and then rank order the foods based on the quantity of these essential micronutrients, and their bioavailability in the body.
The findings were published in early March in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. What they found was that nearly all of the richest sources of these six critical micronutrients were animal sourced, and that the bioavailability of the nutrients was also highest in animal sources.
Most foods contain 70,000 component molecules nestled within a structural food matrix, all of which alter the effects of consuming a particular nutrient. One critical compound tracked in the database was phytate, which blocks calcium absorption and is found a lot in grains, vegetables, and other plant-based foods.