Despite suggestions that animal pollinators are crucial for human nutritional health,
no studies have actually tested this claim. Here, we combined data on crop
pollination requirements, food nutrient densities, and actual human diets to predict
the effects of pollinator losses on the risk of nutrient deficiency. In four developing
countries and across five nutrients, we found that 0 to 56% of populations would
become newly at risk if pollinators were removed. Increases in risk were most
pronounced for vitamin A in populations with moderate levels of total nutrient intake.
Overall, the effects of pollinator decline varied widely among populations and
nutrients. We conclude that the importance of pollinators to human nutrition
depends critically on the composition of local diets, and cannot be reliably predicted
from global commodity analyses. We identify conditions under which severe health
effects of pollinator loss are most likely to occur.