Micronutrients: The smartest investment the world can make


A Bangladeshi medical assistant administers a vitamin A capsule to a child at a health centre in Dhaka June 2, 2012.


Munir Uz Zaman

Dr. Klaus Kraemer is Director of Sight and Life, a humanitarian initiative of DSM, committed to fighting hidden hunger—malnutrition caused by micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies. Dr. Kraemer has over 25 years of experience in research and advocacy in the field of health and safety of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and nutraceuticals.

What is the single smartest way to allocate our global aid dollars? The most cost-effective investment, proven to best address today’s complex challenges? The one intervention that will have the greatest impact on worldwide health and prosperity? After a year-long assessment, the Copenhagen Consensus 2012 Expert Panel—which includes four Nobel Laureates—declared their answer earlier this month: providing micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to the world’s malnourished people.

For global leaders, this presents a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the research and expertise pointing to the proven impact of nutrition on improving the lives of millions. “Bundled micronutrient interventions,” particularly for children, are at the top of the Copenhagen Consensus list because proper nutrition early in life impacts a child’s ability to grow, to fight disease, to learn in school and to earn more as an adult.

The announcement that vitamins and minerals are the single best global aid investment comes as we celebrate 100 years of vitamins—in 1912 the term “vitamin” was coined to describe the bioactive substances we now know are absolutely essential for health and development.

Micronutrients have played a vital role in protecting our health for the last 100 years, and they are key to solving our global nutritional challenges. We know that malnutrition leads to irreversible physical and cognitive damage. But we also know that mothers who are well nourished will give birth to healthier babies. And children who receive the best nutrition during their first two years will reach their full cognitive potential, complete more school and grow to become healthier, more productive adults, contributing to a more prosperous future for their families and their nations.

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At Sight and Life we are proud to be a part of the broad base of global momentum building around nutrition. We know that combating malnutrition is a grand challenge, with far-reaching impacts, and will not be overcome by one group alone. We support global partnerships such as the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, working to champion nutrition at global and national levels. And we are committed to growing the evidence base for nutrition in order to provide crucial information for global leaders as they work to transform research—like the Copenhagen Consensus—into action.

The fact is, combating malnutrition is at the top of the list because its impact can be felt across sectors—from health to agriculture to the economy. Improving nutrition is the most effective way to secure a better future. We must support global leaders who have committed to investing in nutrition. We must support developing countries to improve their capacity to scale up nutrition programs and policies. And we must work together so that everyone, everywhere has access to the right foods and the vitamins and minerals they need to grow healthily, nourish their families and support a prosperous future for their nations and the world.

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