Why Micronutrients are the Best Investment

It’s no question that despite the world’s limited resources, development aid is often misallocated. In response to this, 65 of the world’s brightest economists came together in 2012 under the Copenhagen Consensus to determine the smartest investments to solve the world’s greatest challenges. Here’s what they found:

Weighing the costs and the benefits, micronutrients, the substances needed in small amounts that enable the body to function, grow, and develop properly, are the best investment in terms of social return. For every $1 spent on micronutrients there is a $30 pay off.

Although most micronutrients only cost a few cents per capsule, the cost of malnutrition, or lacking the right balance of nutrients, is extensive. Globally, malnutrition represents direct costs estimated at $20 to $30 billion per year, and losses of 11 percent of GDP every year in the African and Asian regions. Undernourishment, not receiving sufficient food to meet nutrient requirements, leads to the intergenerational transfer of poverty, as “an undernourished mother is more likely to give birth to a stunted child”.

Conversely, properly nourished children are more likely to overcome disease, stay in school for longer, and earn more over their lifetime. It is clear that the extensive social returns and economic savings from the dispersal of micronutrients far exceed their relatively small cost.