Micronutrient Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies, resulting from an inadequate intake or absorption of micronutrients needed to produce and synthesize red blood cells, can lead to anemia. Low intake of dietary iron is a major contributor to anemia because iron is an integral part of the red blood cell and it plays a central role in transporting oxygen. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia globally, but the leading causes of anemia vary widely by geography, age, and sex (Kassebaum et al. 2014). Other nutrients—vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12, and zinc—play specific roles in the production of red blood cells, or indirectly influence iron status. Deficiencies in these micronutrients can, therefore, contribute to anemia; however, they may coexist with anemia even if they are not the cause. Infants and young children, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age, including adolescents, have particularly high biological requirements for micronutrients and are especially vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies.

Which micronutrient deficiencies can cause anemia?

Interventions that address micronutrient deficiencies

  • biofortification
  • delayed cord clamping
  • dietary diversification
  • dietary modification
  • high-dose vitamin A supplementation for children
  • industrial fortification
  • iron–folic acid supplementation in women of reproductive age
  • maternal, infant, and young child nutrition
  • routine micronutrient interventions for children.

For more information about these interventions, go to the Step 4: Assess Status of Anemia Interventions section.