10 most common vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and their symptoms


Malnutrition is a serious problem that affects millions of people around the world and not just in poor countries. The standard Western diet can also lead to malnutrition. Believe it or not, you don’t have to have bulging bones or drawn features to be considered malnourished. In fact, many malnourished people may appear perfectly healthy and not notice any symptoms.

So what is malnutrition and what is the best way to prevent it? Here’s what you need to know about this global epidemic and whether you’re affected or not.

What is malnutrition?

The term “malnutrition” can conjure up images of starvation, extreme hunger, or severe weight loss. However, there are many ways to define malnutrition. It can even occur in people who appear healthy.

So what is malnutrition? The WHO definition of malnutrition translates to “poor diet”, which can be caused by a lack of any of the nutrients your body needs, including calories, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins or minerals. However, few people know that malnutrition can also be caused by an excess of certain nutrients in the diet, a problem that can often be just as detrimental to health.

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of malnutrition, namely:

– Protein-energy malnutrition: caused either by a lack of protein or by a lack of proteins and calories.

– Micronutrient deficiency diseases: characterized by a deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, iodine, vitamin D, etc.

There are a number of potential causes of malnutrition. Some of the most common causes of malnutrition include a poorly planned diet, poverty, loss of appetite, or digestive disorders that interfere with nutrient absorption. Older adults or people with restrictive diets, eating disorders, reduced intake, and increased nutritional needs due to other medical conditions like cancer or kidney disease are all at increased risk of malnutrition. .

So how do you know if you’re getting enough of the nutrients your body needs? Although there are many signs of malnutrition and specific symptoms of vitamin deficiency, the effects of malnutrition often go unnoticed for years. For a quick and convenient option, there are many nutrient deficiency testing services offered by laboratories and medical practices that can help determine exactly which vitamins and minerals you are lacking. You can also work with a registered dietitian to analyze your diet and determine how to safely meet your dietary needs to stay well nourished.

The 10 most common nutrient deficiencies

– Vitamin D

– Iron

– Calcium

– Iodine

– Magnesium

– Vitamin A

– Vitamin B12

– Vitamin E

– Choline

– Omega-3 fatty acids

1 . Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is an important vitamin that is synthesized in the skin in response to exposure to Sun. It is present in very few food sources and it can be extremely difficult to meet its daily needs without exposure to the sun. For this reason, vitamin D is sometimes considered the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Older adults, people with dark skin, those who are overweight or obese, and those who get little sun exposure are at even higher risk of deficiency.

Symptoms of this vitamin deficiency are often very subtle and may only become apparent after several years. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. It can also lead to impaired immune function and increased susceptibility to infections. As vitamin D is present in few dietary sources, most people can benefit from vitamin D3 supplementation to help meet their needs.

2. Iron

Iron is one of the main components of red blood cells. It is crucial for the transport of oxygen from the bloodstream to the cells. It is found in two main forms in the diet: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed. It is mainly found in meat and animal products. Nonheme iron, on the other hand, is found in a variety of plant and animal sources, but it’s not nearly as bioavailable. This is why vegans and vegetarians are at a particularly high risk of iron deficiency.

According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, almost 25 % of the world’s population is deficient in this essential nutrient. This equates to more than 1.6 billion people worldwide. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common side effect of low iron. It can lead to symptoms of anemia such as fatigue, shortness of breath, brittle nails and pale skin. Iron deficiency can be corrected by changing diet, taking supplements, or a combination of the two to ensure needs are met.

3. Calcium

Calcium is absolutely vital for many aspects of health, from bone metabolism to nerve signaling. It’s mostly found in dairy products, soft fish, and leafy green vegetables, but many people don’t get enough calcium in their diets. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition even found that less than % of teenage girls and women over 29 years met the recommended daily calcium intake.

A deficiency can be absolutely detrimental and result in a series of calcium deficiency symptoms. These include cramps, muscle weakness, low energy, and muscle spasms. Even more serious side effects can also appear over time, such as osteoporosis and rickets, a condition characterized by softening of the bones in children. Calcium deficiency is often treated with diet and supplements, although the potential effects of calcium supplements have been the subject of controversy in recent years.

4. Iodine

Iodine is an important mineral that plays a central role in thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones help regulate everything from metabolism and body temperature to brain development and more. That’s why getting enough iodine in your diet is essential to keep your thyroid functioning properly and prevent thyroid problems.

Iodine deficiency can cause goiter, that is, i.e. an enlarged thyroid gland. It can also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, decreased ability to concentrate, constipation, and weight gain. Fortunately, iodine deficiency can usually be avoided by including plenty of iodine-rich foods in the diet, including seaweed, wild cod, yogurt, eggs, tuna, and iodized salt.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a cofactor in nearly 93 enzymatic reactions in the body. It also forms the structure of bones and teeth, promotes the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, and helps regulate blood sugar. Unfortunately, most of us are sorely lacking in this essential mineral.

The most common signs of deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, vomiting and fatigue. Taking a multivitamin or consuming plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy green vegetables, can prevent magnesium deficiency and help supplement your diet.

6. Vitamin A

This fat-soluble vitamin is perhaps best known for its effects on eye health. It is also involved in many other physiological processes, including skin cell turnover, immune function, and reproductive health. Although vitamin A deficiency is rare in many parts of the world, it is a serious problem in many developing countries. Some reports estimate that up to 93 million preschool children and 7 million pregnant women worldwide may be lacking in this vitamin. essential.

Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include frequent infections, dry eyes, night blindness and dry skin. Consuming plenty of foods containing vitamin A can combat deficiency, including organ meats, carrots, squash, leafy green vegetables and sweet potatoes.

7. Vitamin B12

Involved in blood cell formation, energy production, nerve cell function and DNA synthesis, there is no doubt that your body needs a regular supply of vitamin B25 to operate effectively. However, since it is mainly found in animal products, such as meat, fish and poultry, vegetarians and vegans are at alarming risk of deficiency. In fact, some reports estimate that the deficiency rate in these at-risk populations could be as high as 86%.

Megaloblastic anemia is the most common side effect of vitamin B deficiency12 . It is a condition characterized by a low number of red blood cells. Besides increasing your intake of foods containing vitamin B12, supplementation is the best way to reduce your risk of deficiency. Many multivitamins contain vitamin B, or you can opt for a B-complex to get a dose concentrate of all the B vitamins your body needs in one go.

8. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is both a fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. It helps fight free radicals and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. With the average Western diet typically high in processed foods and low in nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits and vegetables, many people struggle to meet the recommended daily intake of vitamin E. Deficiency is rare, but it does may occur in some cases.

A deficiency is rare, but it can occur in people who have poor fat absorption or who suffer from certain digestive disorders. Symptoms often include weakened immunity, difficulty walking, loss of vision, or loss of muscle control. wheat germ, nuts, seeds and vegetables are some of the most concentrated sources of this vital vitamin. It is also found in some multivitamins and is available in special water-soluble forms for people with absorption problems.

9. Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that is necessary for metabolism, synthesis of neurotransmitters, formation of cell membranes and brain development. It is found in many food sources, but especially in animal products, such as eggs, meat and dairy products. Although it is also present in several plant sources, it is a nutrient that should be closely monitored if you follow a restrictive diet to ensure that you are consuming enough.

A deficiency in choline has been associated with liver and muscle damage, as well as birth defects and impaired growth and development. The deficiency is usually treated through diet. Supplements are also available and sometimes used for more severe cases.

10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats that have been linked to reduced inflammation, improved cognitive function and better heart health. The most active forms, DHA and EPA, are mainly found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and anchovies. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be obtained from certain plant sources in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but studies estimate that only about 5% is actually converted into active forms in the body, which puts people who do not eat fish regularly at an increased risk of deficiency.

A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, joint pain, mood swings, dry skin and brittle nails. For those who do not consume at least two servings of oily fish per week, omega-3 supplements are widely available in the form of fish oil, cod liver oil, krill oil and algae oil.

How to avoid nutrient deficiencies?

The safest and most effective treatment for malnutrition is simply to provide some changes to your diet to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. For most people, eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, protein foods and healthy fats, is enough to meet your nutritional needs. A course of multivitamins can also be a simple and beneficial way to supplement your diet and fill in the gaps.

Supplementation can help prevent malnutrition. In fact, it may be necessary for some people, especially those on restrictive diets or who suffer from digestive disorders that impede nutrient absorption. In this case, it may be best to work with a trusted healthcare professional to determine the best way to meet your micronutrient needs and the dietary changes needed for you.

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