Professor Ailsa Welch, University of East Anglia, UK
Micronutrient malnutrition, the deficiency of vitamins and minerals, is an issue across the whole life course, even in high income countries. Micronutrient malnutrition often accompanies low intakes of both protein and energy and leads to serious developmental issues in children, affecting cognition, physical function, and growth. At the other end of the life course, in older adults, recent research shows micronutrient malnutrition leads to decline in physical function, loss of muscle and cognition, and poor quality of life therefore, contributing to the diseases of aging, including sarcopenia and frailty. Micronutrients also help to maintain immune resilience, likely conferring protection against infections like influenza and COVID-19. A number of clinical conditions including bariatric surgery and gastrointestinal diseases also lead to micronutrient malnutrition.
Despite the high prevelance and importance of micronutrient malnutrition this is less well recognised in older western populations. On the other hand, low and middle income countries are experiencing the ‘double burden of disease’ where malnutrition coexists alongside the non-communicable diseases of aging; obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
As micronutrient malnutrition leads to irreversible changes in growth, body composition and cognition in childhood as well as in older age, rectifying deficiency of micronutrients is highly important.
This meeting will highlight recent scientific developments, current understanding and debate surrounding micronutrient deficiency and requirements across the life-course. The four symposia will cover the topics of the importance and impact of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in aging and disease; sarcopenia, frailty, osteosarcopenic obesity and bariatric surgery. The symposia will also cover the emerging issue of the ‘double burden of disease’ in low and middle income countries as well as the importance of micronutrients during pregnancy, and neural development in childhood. Finally, speakers in symposium four will focus on how issues of micronutrient malnutrition can be addressed, differences in micronutrient requirements across the lifecourse and the development of dietary recommendations.