Micronutrients: Food for Thought

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Conrad Cole, MD, MPH:
Micronutrients: Food for Thought

Physicians and researchers are seeing a rise in micronutrient deficiencies in children. Despite needing only a tiny amount of these nutrients, such as Vitamin D, calcium and zinc, some low-income and minority children are not getting enough.

Conrad Cole, MD, MPH, studies how and why some children lack micronutrients and what that deficit means to their growth and development. Cole is an assistant professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in Emory School of Medicine.

Micronutrient deficiencies are often referred to as the hidden hunger because a lack of these nutrients has long-term effects on growth and neurodevelopment. Initially, however, the effects are not overt. Very young children show no apparent signs of mild micronutrient deficiencies. Thus, if very young children are not tested for levels of specific nutrients, there's no way of knowing if they lack micronutrients until it's too late.

"By that time the damage is done," says Cole. "Brain growth and neural development have been compromised, and the body's immune system is also affected. Unfortunately, if children are chronically impaired, even if the level of micronutrients is corrected it doesn’t reverse most of the long-term effects." 

To hear Cole’s own words about micronutrient deficiencies in children, use the player at the top of this page or subscribe to the podcast.