It is a common knowledge that a variety of nutrients are required for a good health.
While most of these may be obtained by a well-balanced diet, the typical Western diet is deficient in some essential nutrients.
This article discusses 7 extremely prevalent nutritional deficiencies.
1. Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts in your body like a steroid hormone.
It circulates through your bloodstream and into cells, instructing them on whether to switch genes on or off. Almost every cell in your body contains a vitamin D receptor.
When exposed to sunshine, your skin produces vitamin D from cholesterol. People who live far from the equator are therefore more likely to be deficient unless their dietary intake is adequate or they supplement with vitamin D.
Around 42% of people in the United States may be deficient in this vitamin. This percentage increases to 74% in older people and 82% in those with dark skin because their skin generates less vitamin D in reaction to sunshine.
Vitamin D deficiency is frequently undetectable since the symptoms are mild and can develop over years or decades.
Adults who are vitamin D deficient may suffer from muscular weakness, bone loss, and an increased risk of fractures. It might cause development delays and soft bones in children.
Vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to decreased immune function and an increased risk of cancer.
While there are very few foods that contain considerable levels of this vitamin, the top dietary sources include:
- Cod liver oil: A single tablespoon (15 ml) packs 227% of the daily value.
- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are rich in vitamin D. A small, 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked salmon provides 75% of the daily value.
- Egg yolks: One large egg yolk contains 7% of the daily value.
Deficient individuals may choose to take a supplement or increase their sun exposure. It is difficult to obtain adequate levels alone through food.
2. Iron deficiency
Iron is a vital mineral.
It’s a major component of red blood cells, where it links to hemoglobin to carry oxygen to your cells.
Dietary iron is classified into two types:
Iron heme: this form of iron is extremely absorbable. It can only be found in animal foods, with red meat having the highest amount.
Non-heme iron: this form is more frequent and may be found in both animal and plant sources. It is not as easily absorbed as heme iron.
Iron deficiency is one of the most frequent nutritional deficiencies in the world, impacting almost 25% of the world population.
In toddlers, this number increases to 47 %. They are extremely likely to be iron deficient unless they are fed iron-rich or iron-fortified diets.
Due to monthly blood loss, around 30% of menstrual women may be deficient, and up to 42% of young, pregnant women may be deficient as well.
Furthermore, vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of iron deficiency because they consume solely non-heme iron, which is not as effectively absorbed as heme iron.
The most frequent side effect of iron deficiency is anemia, which occurs when the amount of red blood cells and the ability of your blood to carry oxygen decreases.
Tiredness, weakness, a weakened immune system, and impaired brain function are common symptoms.
The following foods are excellent sources of heme iron:
- Red meat: 3 ounces (85 grams) of ground beef provides about 30% of the Daily Value (DV).
- Organ meat: one slice of liver (81 grams) provides more than half of the DV.
- Shellfish: clams, mussels, and oysters are high in heme iron, with 3 ounces (85 grams) of cooked oysters providing about half of the daily need.
- Canned sardines: One 3.75-ounce (106-gram) serving contains 34% of the DV.
The following foods are excellent sources of non-heme iron:
- Beans: half a cup (85 grams) of cooked kidney beans contains 33% of the DV.
- Seeds: non-heme iron is found in pumpkin, sesame, and squash seeds. One ounce (28 grams) of roasted pumpkin or squash seeds contains 11% of the daily value.
- Dark, leafy greens Iron-rich foods: include broccoli, kale, and spinach. One ounce (28 grams) of fresh kale contains 5.5% of the daily value.
- However, you should never take iron supplements unless you actually need them. Too much iron can be dangerous.
Notably, vitamin C can improve iron absorption. Consuming vitamin-C-rich foods like oranges, kale, and bell peppers alongside iron-rich meals might help you absorb more iron.
3. Iodine deficiency
Iodine is a mineral that is required for appropriate thyroid function and thyroid hormone production.
Thyroid hormones have a role in a variety of biological functions, including growth, brain development, and bone health. They also control your metabolic rate.
One of the most frequent nutritional deficits, affecting roughly a third of the world’s population, is iodine deficiency.
An enlarged thyroid gland, often known as a goiter, is the most prevalent sign of iodine deficiency. It may also raise heart rate, produce shortness of breath, and promote weight gain.
Severe iodine insufficiency is associated with serious harm, particularly in children. It has the potential to induce mental impairment and developmental problems.
Iodine-rich foods include:
- Seaweed: only 1 gram of kelp contains 460–1,000% of the DV.
- Fish: three ounces (85 grams) of baked fish contains 66 percent of the daily value.
- Dairy: one cup (245 grams) of plain yogurt provides approximately half of the DV.
- Eggs: one big egg provides 16% of the DV.
These numbers, however, might differ significantly. Because iodine is largely found in soil and ocean water, iodine-deficient soil will result in low-iodine food.
Some nations require that table salt be enriched with iodine, which has successfully decreased the frequency of deficiencies.
4. Calcium deficiency
Calcium is required by every cell in your body. It mineralizes bones and teeth, especially during rapid growth periods. It is also essential for bone maintenance.
Calcium also functions as a signaling molecule. Your heart, muscles, and nerves would not be able to operate without it.
Calcium levels in your blood are strictly controlled, and any excess is deposited in your bones. If you don’t get enough calcium, your bones will release it.
As a result, osteoporosis, characterized by weaker and more fragile bones, is the most prevalent symptom of calcium deficiency.
According to one survey conducted in the United States, fewer than 15% of teenage girls, fewer than 10% of women over 50, and fewer than 22% of teenage males and men over 50 reached the required calcium consumption.
Although supplementation improved these numbers slightly, the majority of people were still not getting enough calcium.
Soft bones in children and osteoporosis, particularly in older adults, are symptoms of increasingly severe dietary calcium deficiency.
Calcium-rich foods include:
- Boned fish: one can (92 grams) of sardines contains 44% of the DV.
- Dairy products: one cup (240 ml) of milk provides 35% of the DV.
- Dark green vegetables: kale, spinach, bok choy, and broccoli are rich in calcium. Just 1 ounce (28 grams) of fresh kale offers 5.6% of the DV.
In recent years, there has been significant dispute over the safety and effectiveness of calcium supplements.
Some studies show an increased risk of heart disease in persons who use calcium supplements, while others show no impact.
While it is preferable to get calcium from food rather than supplements, these supplements appear to help those who do not receive enough from their diet.
5. Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin also known as cobalamin.
It is required for the formation of blood as well as the function of the brain and nerves.
Every cell in your body requires B12 to operate properly, yet your body cannot make it. As a result, you have to get it from food or supplements.
B12 is only found in adequate levels in animal foods, while some forms of seaweed may give a small amount. As a result, people who do not consume animal products are at a higher risk of deficiency.
According to studies, up to 80–90% of vegetarians and vegans may be vitamin B12 deficient.
Because absorption decreases with age, more than 20% of older people may be deficient in this vitamin.
Because of a protein known as intrinsic factor, B12 absorption is more complex than that of other vitamins. Some people are deficient in this protein and may require B12 injections or higher supplement dosages.
Megaloblastic anemia, a blood condition that causes red blood cells to enlarge, is a typical symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Other symptoms include impaired brain function and high homocysteine levels, which are a risk factor for a variety of disorders.
Vitamin B12 is found in a variety of foods including:
- Shellfish: clams and oysters are vitamin B12-rich shellfish. A 3-ounce (85-gram) piece of cooked clams contains 1400% of the DV.
- Organ meat: one 2-ounce (60-gram) slice of liver contains more than 1000% of the DV.
- Meat: A small 6-ounce (170-gram) beef steak has 150% of the daily value.
- Eggs: One full egg contains around 6% of the DV.
- Milk products: One cup (240 mL) of whole milk contains roughly 18% of the daily value.
Because vitamin B12 is frequently poorly absorbed and quickly removed, excessive doses are not considered dangerous.
6. Magnesium deficiency
Magnesium is an essential component in your body.
It is necessary for the construction of bones and teeth, and it is also involved in over 300 enzyme processes.
Nearly 70% of the US population under the age of 71, and around 80% of those over the age of 71, take less magnesium than is recommended.
Low magnesium consumption and blood levels have been linked to a number of illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Low levels are especially prevalent among hospitalized patients. According to some research, 9–65% of them are deficient.
Disease, drug usage, impaired digestive function, or insufficient magnesium intake can all lead to deficiency.
The most common signs of severe magnesium deficiency include irregular heartbeat, muscular cramps, restless leg syndrome, tiredness, and headaches.
Insulin resistance and high blood pressure are two more subtle, long-term symptoms that you may not notice.
Magnesium may be found in the following foods:
- Whole grains: one cup (170 grams) of oats contains 74% of the daily value.
- Nuts: twenty almonds provide 17% of the daily value.
- Dark chocolate: one ounce (30 grams) of dark chocolate contains 15% of the DV.
- Vegetables with dark green leaves: one ounce (30 grams) of raw spinach contains 6% of the DV.
7. Vitamin A deficiency
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for good health. It helps in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, teeth, bones, and cell membranes. It also creates eye pigments, which are required for vision.
There are two kinds of dietary vitamin A:
Vitamin A preformed: this kind of vitamin A may be found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products.
Vitamin A (provitamin A): plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain this kind. The most prevalent kind is beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A.
More than 75% of people who consume a Western diet get more than enough vitamin A and do not need to be concerned about insufficiency.
Vitamin A deficiency, on the other hand, is quite widespread in many developing countries. Vitamin A deficiency affects 44–50% of preschool-aged children in some areas. In Indian women, this number is nearly 30%.
Vitamin A insufficiency can result in both temporary and permanent eye impairment, as well as blindness. In fact, this deficiency is the primary cause of blindness in the world.
A lack of vitamin A can also impair immunological function and increase mortality, particularly in children and pregnant or nursing women.
Preformed vitamin A is found in the following foods:
- Organ meat: one 2-ounce (60-gram) slice of beef liver has more than 800% of the daily value.
- Fish liver oil: one tablespoon (15 mL) contains approximately 500% of the DV.
Beta carotene (provitamin A) dietary sources include:
- Sweet potatoes: 150 percent of the DV is found in one medium, 6-ounce (170-gram) cooked sweet potato.
- Carrots: one big carrot has 75% of the DV.
- Vegetables with dark green leaves: one ounce (28 grams) of fresh spinach contains 18% of the DV.
While it is critical to have enough of this vitamin, too much preformed vitamin A can be toxic.
This does not apply to pro-vitamin A sources like beta carotene. A high intake may cause your skin to become slightly orange, however this is not a harmful consequence.
Almost every vitamin deficiency is possible. Having said that, the deficiencies described above are by far the most prevalent.
Children, young ladies, aged people, vegetarians, and vegans appear to be the most exposed to a range of deficits.
The greatest way to avoid deficiency is to consume a well-balanced diet rich in full, nutrient-dense foods. Supplements, on the other hand, may be required for people who are unable to acquire enough from food alone.