7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common
Nutrient deficiencies can lead to a wide range of health problems. It is important to know which nutrients are in your food and how much of them you should be consuming. Nutrient deficiencies can be seen in many forms, such as anemia, osteoporosis, skin problems, and neurological disorders. They can also lead to difficulties during pregnancy and growth problems in children.
Being healthy is important and something you should always be striving for. While it’s possible to get most nutrients from a well-balanced diet, the average Western diet does not provide enough essential nutrients.
Nutrient deficiencies are a common issue for many people. They can lead to a number of health problems and long-term problems. In this article, we’ll discuss 7 nutrient deficiencies that are incredibly common.
1. Iron Deficiency
The most common nutrient deficiency is iron deficiency which is an essential mineral. The body needs iron to produce hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout the body. If you have an iron deficiency, you may feel tired and weak all the time. You may also notice that you bruise easily or have trouble concentrating.
Iron deficiency can lead to a decreased ability to fight off infections, an increased risk of infection due to low immune function, impaired cognitive function, and poor physical performance.
Iron-deficiency anemia can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. It can also lead to heart palpitations, dizziness, and headaches. You’re more likely to develop this deficiency if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have a diet that’s low in iron-containing foods like red meat or green leafy vegetables.
The two types of dietary iron are:
- Heme iron. This type of iron is very well absorbed. It’s only found in animal foods, with red meat containing particularly high amounts.
- Non-heme iron. This type, found in both animal and plant foods, is more common. It is not absorbed as easily as heme iron.
Most of the menstruating women, young and pregnant women may be deficient due to monthly blood loss. Additionally, vegetarians and vegans have an increased risk of deficiency because they consume only non-heme iron, which is not absorbed as well as heme iron.
The most common consequence of iron deficiency is anemia, in which the number of your red blood cells and your blood’s ability to carry oxygen drops.
Iron deficiency is diagnosed through a blood test and treatment includes taking supplements to replace iron stores, eating more foods that contain iron, or having a blood transfusion if severe.
Dietary sources of heme iron include:
- Red meat
- Organ meat
- Shell fish
- Canned sardines
Dietary sources of non-heme iron include:
- Dark green leaves
However, you should never supplement with iron unless you truly need it. Too much iron can be very harmful.
Make sure consuming vitamin C along with iron foods as, vitamin C can enhance the absorption of iron. Eating vitamin-C-rich foods like oranges, kale, and bell peppers alongside iron-rich foods can help maximize your iron absorption.
2. Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is an essential mineral for the human body. It is important for the function of the thyroid gland and it helps regulate metabolism. It is a component of two thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce these hormones.
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental retardation worldwide. Iodine deficiency can lead to stunted growth, goiter, and hypothyroidism and other thyroid-related problems. Iodine deficiency has also been linked with increased risk of miscarriage and preterm birth in pregnant women.
Causes of Iodine deficiency:
1) Lack of iodine in the diet, including lack of iodized salt or other dietary sources of iodine.
2) Low production of thyroxin from the thyroid gland due to inadequate intake or production (e.g., due to insufficient iodine).
3) Increased requirement for thyroxin production by the thyroid gland (e.g., during pregnancy).
4) Inability to absorb dietary iodine due to a lack of sufficient amounts in food.
Dietary sources of Iodine include:
- Dairy Products
Some countries mandate the enrichment of table salt with iodine, which has successfully reduced the incidence of deficiencies.
In order to avoid iodine deficiency, it is recommended that people consume 150 mcg per day from food or supplements.
3. Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is an essential mineral that is required for many body functions, including building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also helps with nerve signaling, muscle contraction, blood clotting and other functions.
The human body needs calcium to maintain bone health, to regulate the release of hormones and enzymes, and to transmit nerve impulses. Calcium deficiency is a condition that occurs when a person do not get enough calcium from their diet or may have trouble absorbing it from food. This can lead to a deficiency in the body’s stores of calcium.
A lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become fragile and brittle. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures and broken bones. It can also cause muscle cramps, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and an increased risk for dementia.
Dietary sources of calcium include:
- Boned fish
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream etc.
- Vegetables like broccoli, kale etc.
- Fruits like oranges, bananas etc.
- Cereals fortified with calcium
- Dark green leaves
The recommended dietary allowance for calcium is 1000 milligrams per day for adults under 50 years old. For adults over 50 years old, the recommended dietary allowance of calcium is 1200 milligrams per day.
Symptoms of more severe dietary calcium deficiency include soft bones (rickets) in children and osteoporosis, especially in older adults
The most common cause of calcium deficiency is not getting enough calcium in the diet. Other causes include inadequate production of stomach acid or low levels of vitamin D.
4. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many biological processes in the human body. It is important for maintaining healthy muscle and nerve function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps bones strong, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Magnesium deficiency is a common problem that affects people of all ages and lifestyles. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for the body, bone and teeth structure. and it is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels, supports a healthy immune system, and regulates blood pressure.
Deficiency may be caused by disease, drug use, reduced digestive function, or inadequate magnesium intake.
The most common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Restless leg syndrome
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety or depression
Dietary sources of magnesium include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains like quinoa or brown rice
- Dairy products such as milk and yogurt
5. Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for human health. It also functions like a steroid hormone in your body. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
There are two types of Vitamin D: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is more potent than Vitamin D2, which is why it’s used to treat these diseases.
Vitamin D is not produced by your body naturally, so it must be obtained through food or supplements if you don’t spend much time in direct sunlight each day. A vitamin D deficiency can result in bone pain, chronic pain, brittle nails and hair loss.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone diseases like rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. It also increases the risk of getting certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.
There are many sources of Vitamin D, including sunlight, food and supplements. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to bone pain, muscle weakness, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Vitamin D deficiencies are common in people living in regions with less sunlight exposure or who have darker skin tones. Inadequate consumption of foods fortified with vitamin D may also cause deficiencies.
Symptoms include muscle weakness, bone loss, an increased risk of fractures, and in children, soft bones. It is very difficult to get sufficient amounts from your diet alone.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include:
- Cod liver oil
- Salmon, tuna, or mackerel
- Diary products (cheese, and fortified milk)
Vitamin D is the only nutrient that can be obtained from both food and sun exposure. The human body synthesizes vitamin D in response to UVB radiation from the sun. Sun exposure is the best way to get enough Vitamin D as it can result in a 10-20x increase in blood levels of vitamin D.
6. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is essential for blood formation, as well as brain and nerve function. Every cell in your body needs B12 to function normally, but your body is unable to produce it. Therefore, you must get it from food or supplements.
B12 is only found in sufficient amounts in animal foods, although certain types of seaweed may provide small quantities. Therefore, people who do not eat animal products are at an increased risk of deficiency.
One common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is megaloblastic anemia, which is a blood disorder that enlarges your red blood cells.
A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to a number of health problems, including:
- Decreased blood cell production
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss or weight gain
It is necessary for the production of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. Other symptoms may include depression and tingling in the fingers. People who have chronic conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease are at a higher risk for developing this deficiency.
B12 absorption is more complex than that of other vitamins because it’s aided by a protein known as intrinsic factor. Some people are lacking in this protein and may thus need B12 injections or higher doses of supplements.
Dietary sources of vitamin B12 include:
The human body needs vitamin B12 to convert food into energy and to make DNA.
- Fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring and trout
- Dairy products
- Beef liver
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Organ meats like kidney and liver
Vitamin B12 isn’t considered harmful in large amounts because it’s often poorly absorbed and easily excreted.
7. Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. It helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, bones, and cell membranes. Furthermore, it produces eye pigments, which are necessary for vision. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the leading causes of blindness, and it can also lead to a higher risk of death from common infections.
There are two different types of dietary vitamin A:
- Preformed vitamin A. This type of vitamin A is found in animal products like meat, fish, poultry, and dairy.
- Pro-vitamin A. This type is found in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A, is the most common form.
Vitamin A deficiency is a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight and skin.
The World Health Organization estimates that 200 million preschool-age children are vitamin A deficient. This is especially concerning in developing countries where the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency can be as high as 50%. The WHO recommends that all children under five years old receive a single dose of vitamin A every six months to prevent this condition.
The following are the most common symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency.
- Dry, rough skin
- Swelling of the eyelids and dry eyes
- Dry lips that peel easily
- Cracks at the corners of mouth or around nose
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
Dietary sources of vitamin A include:
While it is very important to consume enough of this vitamin, too much preformed vitamin A may cause toxicity. This does not apply to pro-vitamin A, such as beta carotene. High intake may cause your skin to turn slightly orange, but this effect isn’t dangerous.
No matter what your diet, there is an increased chance that you are deficient in one or more essential nutrients.
It is possible to be deficient in almost every nutrient. That said, the deficiencies listed above are by far the most common.
Children, young women, older adults, vegetarians, and vegans seem to be at the highest risk of several deficiencies.
The best way to prevent deficiency is to eat a balanced diet that includes whole, nutrient-dense foods. However, supplements may be necessary for those who can’t obtain enough from diet alone.
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