Importance of Life Cycle

Evaluation of existing evidence related to effects of micronutrient supplements on nutrition and health, aimed at formulating recommendations for supplementation, must take into account the influence of a person's stage of life and general health status on the absorption, usefulness, and need for any particular micronutrient. Physiological needs for specific micronutrients and, consequently, for micronutrient supplements differ at various stages in the life cycle. For example, infants require additional iron after 6 months of age, women who may become pregnant benefit from additional folate, and elderly people who lose their ability to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12 in food require an alternative source of the vitamin. When studies are designed to investigate the relationship between micronutrient supplements and specific health outcomes, the outcomes that are chosen to be measured usually depend on the specific life cycle stage of the study participants. For any life cycle stage, a person's genetic makeup and lifestyle behaviors will also influence his or her individual micronutrient requirements (Figure 1).

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