Micronutrient Deficiency in Women Living in Industrialized Countries During the Reproductive Years: Is there a Basis for Supplementation with Multiple Micronutrients?

Ella Schaefer

Maternal diet is widely recognized to be one of the major environmental factors influencing the development of the embryo and fetus. It is important that women of childbearing age maintain good nutrition throughout their reproductive years, including before conception, as there is a strong relationship between fertility and a successful pregnancy, and a sufficient intake of micronutrients. Yet even in ‘high-income’, industrialized countries, where dietary resources are more readily available, micronutrient levels in such women may be inadequate.
This review looked at the micronutrient status of women of childbearing age in industrialized countries, as well as those who were pregnant, to determine whether there are any gaps in micronutrient levels. A second objective was to assess whether the evidence indicates a role for multiple micronutrients other than folate and iron during these periods. Results indicated that although some women might have a sufficient intake of micronutrients (although not necessarily all of them), there are those who have lower than the currently-recommended daily intake of micronutrients, particularly folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, iron and selenium. The evidence suggests that multiple micronutrient supplementation during the periconceptional period (i.e. before conception until the end of the first trimester) and throughout pregnancy could help to address inadequate dietary intake of micronutrients, improve maternal status prior to and during pregnancy, and thereby help to minimize reproductive risks.