Environment & Biodiversity

Vital link between Soil Micronutrients and Human Health

  • A recent study has found a strong link between soil micronutrients and human nutritional outcomes, notably in children and adult women.
  • The study, titled “Soil Micronutrients Linked to Human Health in India,” emphasises that nutrient shortages in disadvantaged people are exacerbated by soil lack in critical minerals.

What exactly are soil micronutrients?

  • Micronutrients are important components that plants require in lesser amounts than macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).
  • These micronutrients are essential in a variety of physiological and biochemical processes within plants.

Types of Micronutrients

Role in PlantsDeficiency Symptoms
Iron (Fe)Chlorophyll synthesis, photosynthesisChlorosis (yellowing) of leaves
Manganese (Mn)Photosynthesis, enzyme activationInterveinal Chlorosis, poor fruit dev.
Zinc (Zn)Enzyme activity, protein synthesisStunted growth, small leaves
Copper (Cu)Enzyme activity, chlorophyll formationLeaf wilting, reduced growth
Molybdenum (Mo)Nitrogen fixation, enzyme activityPoor growth, yellowing of leaves
Boron (B)Cell wall formation, auxin synthesisDistorted growth, reduced fruit dev.
Chlorine (Cl)Osmotic balance, photosynthesisOsmotic imbalance, leaf damage
Nickel (Ni)Enzyme cofactorSpecific deficiency symptoms

Soil Micronutrients and Health Correlation

  • Soil-Zinc Relationship: The study indicates that districts with higher soil zinc content exhibit lower rates of child stunting and underweight, signifying the importance of soil zinc in nutritional outcomes.
  • Height and Soil Zinc: An increase in soil zinc availability corresponds to an increase in female height, implying a link between micronutrient-rich soil and human growth.
  • Soil Iron and Anaemia: The study found a link between soil iron availability and anaemia in women, as well as haemoglobin levels in both children and women.

India’s Implications

  • Soil Nutrient Deficiency: The study is significant for India, where over 35% of soil is zinc poor and roughly 11% is iron deficient.
  • Micronutrient Deficiency: India suffers from major micronutrient deficiencies, with nearly one-third of the global population affected. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia in the country.

Taking Care of Malnutrition and Stunting

  • Stunting and malnutrition: Malnutrition is a leading risk factor for disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) loss, with a child stunting rate of around 39%, according to the Lancet’s Global Burden of Disease Study.
  • Insights from the Research: According to the findings of the study, a one standard deviation rise in adequate soil zinc is connected with a decrease in stunting and underweight among children.

Implications for Policy

  • Mitigation of Anaemia: The study implies that soil mineral availability could be a beneficial strategy for minimising the population’s broad prevalence of anaemia.
  • Wealthier homes: The association between soil zinc availability and childhood stunting is especially noticeable in wealthier homes, possibly because poorer households experience additional health constraints.
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