In human health, minerals and vitamins are essential components for maintaining good health and can help reduce age-related decline and the onset of chronic diseases. Although most people are aware of the benefits of eating a balanced diet, nearly 10% of people in the US have nutrients deficiency. Nutritional deficiencies can happen at any age.
Not getting proper nutrients can lead to many health problems. The most common deficiency includes iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C. These deficiencies can be found through monitoring and treatment through proper diet and supplements.
Many people have vitamin deficiencies but never realize it. Those who do not eat a proper diet or eat a poor quality diet are at higher risk. In many cases, symptoms get lead to testing, which reveals the efficiency. Once any deficiency is detected it is treated by providing proper nutrients either through diet or supplement or both. In some severe cases, IV infusion is necessary.
Common nutrient deficiencies –
Iron Deficiency –
- It is an essential mineral.
- It is a significant component of RBC where it binds with hemoglobin and transport oxygen to the cell.
- There are two types of dietary iron Heme Iron and Non-Heme Iron. Heme is well absorbed and found only in animal diets, and red meat contains the highest amount. Non-Heme is found both in plant and animal diets. This does not absorb quickly.
- This deficiency is one of the common deficiencies in the world. More than 25% of people are affected worldwide.
- Menstruating women might suffer from this deficiency because of monthly blood loss, and young pregnant women may be affected.
- Preschool children also have a high risk of this deficiency.
- Vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk of this deficiency because they consume Non-Heme Iron food which is not easily absorbed.
- Symptoms include impaired brain function, a weak immune system, weakness, tiredness.
- The best sources of foods are red and organ meat, shellfish, canned sardines, beans, seeds, dark leafy greens.
Iodine Deficiency –
- It is an essential mineral for normal thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones.
- Thyroid hormones are responsible for many bodily functions like growth, bone maintenance, brain development, and regulate metabolic rate.
- It is one of the common nutrient deficiencies.
- Symptoms include an enlarged thyroid gland, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and weight gain.
- The best sources of food are seaweed, fish, dairy, and eggs.
Calcium Deficiency –
- It is essential for every cell in the body.
- It mineralizes bones and teeth, helps in bone maintenance, serves as a signaling molecule. Without calcium, the heart, nerves, and muscles will not function.
- The calcium concentration is tightly regulated in the body, and excess is store in the brain. If the calcium intake is less, then bones will release.
- Symptoms include soft bones in children and osteoporosis in older adults.
- The sources of calcium are boned fish, dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium Deficiency –
- It is an essential mineral in the body.
- It is vital for teeth and bone structure.
- Almost half of the US population consumes less magnesium than the required amount.
- A low level of magnesium causes osteoporosis, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetics.
- Deficiency can be caused by inadequate magnesium intake, reduced digestive function, illness.
- Symptoms include abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, and migraine.
- The primary sources of magnesium are whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate, dark green leafy vegetables.
Folic Acid –
- It is one of the many vitamin B, plays a role in maintaining healthy RBC, and is vital during pregnancy.
- People who don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables, drink alcohol in large quantities, or certain medications have a higher risk of developing this deficiency.
- Symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, hair loss, and shortness of breath.
- The primary sources of folic acid are broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables, peas.
Zinc Deficiency –
- In immune systems, in anti-aging, and also in male fertility, it has a fundamental role.
- Symptoms include open sores on the skin, loss of appetite, diarrhea, decreased sense of smell and taste, wounds that won’t heal, lack of alertness, unexplained weight loss.
- The primary source of zinc includes meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, whole grains.
Potassium Deficiency –
- It helps the heart, nerves, and muscles work correctly and delivers nutrients to cells while removing waste.
- It helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
- Symptoms include an abnormal heart rhythm or palpitations, tingling, and numbness, cramps, constipation, muscle weakness, twitches
- The primary sources include bananas, milk, acorn squash, lentils, and kidney beans.
Vitamin D Deficiency –
- It is a fat-soluble vitamin.
- It travels through the blood into cells, telling them to turn genes on or off. Almost every cell in the body has a receptor for vitamin D.
- Upon exposure to sunlight, vitamin D is produced from cholesterol in the skin.
- In the US, about 42% of people have this deficiency.
- Vitamin D deficiency may develop over the years or decades, and its symptoms are subtle.
- Adults who have this deficiency may experience muscles weakness, bone loss, increased risk of fractures, reduced immune functions, and an increased risk of cancer. In children, it causes soft bones and growth delay.
- The food that contains vitamin D includes cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency –
- It is a water-soluble vitamin known as cobalamin.
- It is essential for brain and nerve function and blood formation.
- To function, usually, every cell in the body needs vitamin B12. But the body cannot produce it. Therefore it has to be got from food or supplement.
- It is found in animal food. Vegetarian people have a higher risk of this deficiency.
- Absorb of this vitamin is more complex as it’s aided by an intrinsic factor (protein).
- The symptomS is megaloblastic anemia which enlarges RBC, impaired brain function, and elevated homocysteine levels.
- The primary sources of vitamin B12 are shellfish, organ meat, meat, eggs, milk products.
Vitamin A Deficiency –
- It is an essential fat-soluble vitamin.
- It helps form and maintains healthy skin, teeth, bones, and cell membranes.
- There are two types of vitamin A like Preformed vitamin A, Pro-vitamin A. The 1st one is found in animal products, and 2nd one is located in plant-based food.
- This deficiency is common in many developing countries.
- This deficiency can cause temporary or permanent eye damage. It may lead to blindness.
- The primary source of vitamin A is organ meat, fish liver oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C –
- It acts as an antioxidant within the body.
- It helps prevent damage inflicted by free radicals, hormones, and amino acid production helps with the absorption of iron.
- The most common effect of this deficiency is scurvy, a fatal-if-untreated disease.
- Symptoms include Diarrhea, Nausea. Vomiting, Heartburn, Abdominal cramps, Headache, Insomnia.
- The primary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, such as oranges and orange juice, peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes.
The simplest way to prevent nutrient deficiencies is to eat a wholesome, nutrient-dense diet. Get a blood test done to find out if any defect is there not. Children, young women, older adults, vegans, and vegetarians are at higher risk of nutritional deficiency. Some time supplement is necessary if enough nutrients are not got from food.