Nutritional deficiency refers to the condition of the body not having sufficient nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Anaemia, for example, is one of the problems induced by dietary deficiencies. Vitamins are necessary for the body to keep healthy and perform appropriately. Although vitamins are present in foods, they are not always sufficient. Some people require more vitamins than others. Enhancing nutrient intake can help to relieve symptoms and illnesses. Many people use multivitamins and mineral supplements.
Humans are unable to synthesise vitamin C internally, but animals can. Therefore, it is essential to obtain it via diet. Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits, tomatoes, tomato juice, potatoes, red and green peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe. It is associated with primary metabolism and creating collagen, L-carnitine, and some neurotransmitters.
Vitamin C is vital for immunological activity and promotes non-heme iron absorption and its biosynthetic and antioxidant effects. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for people above the age of 19 require 90 milligrams (mg) for males and 75 milligrams (mg) for females. Pregnant and lactating women need 80-85 mg and 115-120 mg, respectively.
A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy, and symptoms comprise weariness, lethargy, gum swelling, loosening or loss of teeth, joint discomfort, and poor wound healing. It can also impact older people and alcoholics whose bodies are less able to process vitamin C due to poor eating habits or drug abuse.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts in the body like a steroid hormone. It enters your cells through the bloodstream and instructs them on whether to turn on or off specific genes. Vitamin D receptors may be present in almost every cell of the body. For example, when exposed to the sun, the skin produces vitamin D from cholesterol. However, people living too distant from the equator are prone to its deficiency unless their food consumption is sufficient or they use vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D deficiency is frequently undetectable since the symptoms are mild and build over long periods. However, people with vitamin D deficiency suffer from muscular weakness, bone loss, and a higher risk of fractures. It can cause developmental problems and soft bones in kids (rickets). According to studies, vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a weakened immune system and an elevated risk of cancer.
Iodine is a nutrient that can be present in ocean fish, seaweed, shrimp, and other shellfish, along with dairy and grain-based products. It is present in different farm produce, albeit the amount varies depending on the soil in which it was produced. The body uses iodine to generate thyroid hormones, which regulate other vital activities. Thyroid hormones are necessary for healthy bone and brain development throughout pregnancy and childhood. The RDA for adults is 150 micrograms, 220 micrograms for pregnant women, and 290 micrograms for lactating mothers.
In many parts of the globe, iodine deficiency during foetal and early childhood is a primary reason for brain damage. In addition, iodine shortage in adults can result in goitre, a condition with an enlarged thyroid gland.
Research shows that increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and weight gain are possible side effects.
It also results in reduced brain function and work performance. Chronic iodine shortage results in a higher risk of thyroid cancer in certain people.
Each cell in the body needs calcium to function properly. It helps mineralise bones and teeth, which is especially important during years of fast growth. It is further critical for maintaining bone health.
Calcium also functions as a signalling molecule. The heart, muscles, and nerves cannot operate without them. Bones store excess calcium in our bloodstream, which is tightly regulated. Calcium-rich foods include milk, cheese, fish, dark green vegetables and products made of fortified flour. Suppose the calcium is not present in the optimum amount to perform essential functions. In that case, bones release it to fulfil the requirement, resulting in osteoporosis, characterised by weaker and more brittle bones, which is the most prevalent indication of calcium shortage.
According to studies, soft bones (rickets) in kids and osteoporosis, particularly in older people, are symptoms of increasingly severe dietary calcium insufficiency. Insufficient calcium levels can lead to significant exhaustion, including a lack of energy and a sluggish experience. It can further cause insomnia. Lightheadedness, dizziness, and brain fog, characterised by a loss of attention, forgetfulness, and disorientation – are all symptoms of calcium-deficient fatigue.
Iron is a vital mineral. It’s a significant part of red blood cells, which links to haemoglobin and carries oxygen to the cells. Iron helps various critical functions, including blood cell production and preserving our body’s protein structure.
Dietary iron comes in two forms:
- Iron heme: This iron is highly efficiently absorbed. It’s exclusively present in animal products, with red meat having the highest concentration.
- Heme-free iron is more prevalent and can be present in animal and plant sources. It is not comparatively easily absorbed like heme iron.
As per research, iron insufficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies, impacting over 25% of the world’s population. Furthermore, vegetarians and vegans eat solely non-heme iron, which is not as effectively absorbed as heme iron, so they are at a higher risk of deficiency. For males aged 19 to 51, the RDA for iron is 8 mg, while for females aged 19 to 51, it is 18 mg.
The RDA for males and females above 51 is 8 mg. Good sources of heme iron are red meat, organ meat, canned sardines and shellfish. Non-heme iron includes beans, seeds, broccoli, whole grains, legumes, dried fruits, nuts, kale, and spinach.
Tiredness and fatigue, poor work performance, delayed cognitive and social development in children, difficulties regulating body temperature, impaired immunological function, higher vulnerability to infections, and an irritated tongue are all symptoms of iron deficiency.
Magnesium is an essential element in the human body. It’s crucial for bone and tooth formation and has over 300 enzyme activities. Magnesium deficiency is the root cause of several illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Low levels are persistent among patients in hospitals. In addition, several diseases, medication usage, poor digestive function, or insufficient magnesium intake can lead to deficiency.
The RDA for men aged 19 to 30 is 400 mg, while for men aged 31 and up is 420 mg. In addition, females aged 19 to 30 can strive for 310 mg, while those aged 31 and up need to have 320 mg.
Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and weakness are early indicators of magnesium shortage. Numbness, headache, tingling, muscular contractions and cramps, seizures, behavioural changes, irregular heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can all develop as magnesium deficiency progresses.
Insulin resistance and high blood pressure are two more moderate, or long-term signs that may remin undetected.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin often referred to as cobalamin. It is necessary to create blood and brain activity and nerves. B12 is essential for regular cellular functions; however, the body can’t make it. As a result, people need to obtain it from diet or supplements. B12 is present in significant quantities in animal diets. However, some forms of seaweed can contain minor amounts. As a result, those who do not consume animal products are more likely to become B12 deficient.
According to studies, because absorption diminishes with age, over 20% of older persons may lack sufficient levels of B12 in their bodies. Intrinsic factor, absorbing B12 is more complicated than other vitamins. Many people require B12 injections or increased supplement dosages if they are B12 deficient.
Megaloblastic anaemia, a blood condition that causes the red blood cells to expand, is a typical indication of vitamin B12 deficiency. Other symptoms include poor brain function and high homocysteine levels, risk factors for various illnesses.
The HealthifyMe Note
Nutritional deficiency is a condition wherein the body lacks essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Micro and macro nutrient deficiencies can result in various chronic health problems. However, these nutrients, vitamin C, iodine, vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, iron, and calcium, are essential for various bodily functions. Therefore, it is critical to incorporate these into our daily diet.
How to Combat These Nutrient Deficiencies
As mentioned above, these 7 nutrient deficiencies can cause various health-related issues. Still, there are different supplements, food items and lifestyle changes which you can adopt to combat the symptoms of these nutrient deficiencies.
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat vitamin D deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Try spending more time in the sun as it is the most prominent source of vitamin D. Though do not spend a lot of time in direct sunlight without wearing sunscreen.
- Try incorporating mushrooms, fatty fish, seafood, and egg yolk, as these are rich sources of vitamin D.
- Eat more fortified foods like orange juice, plant-based milk, tofu, cereals, yoghurt etc.
- Take supplements (under the guidance of your healthcare provider).
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat vitamin C deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Try incorporating more citrus fruits in your diet like kiwi, grapes, lemon etc.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables; avoid boiling or over-cooking foods and vegetables as they decrease their vitamin C content.
- Eat fresh orange instead of orange juice as fresh orange is a prominent source of vitamin C.
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat iodine deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Take multivitamins containing iodine.
- Use more iodised table salt in your meals.
- Drink more milk or consume more milk products.
- Incorporate sea foods in your diet.
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat iron deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Eat more green leafy vegetables like spinach.
- Incorporate more red meat in your diet.
- Make beans, bread, pasta, and peas your best friend.
- Eat dry fruits that are a rich source of iron, like apricots and raisins.
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat calcium deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Eat more soy products.
- Add cheese, yoghurt and other milk-based products to your diet.
- Incorporate sardines, kale, and broccoli in your meals
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat magnesium deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Eat a well-balanced meal and incorporate legumes, nuts, and whole grains into your diet.
- Eat foods like oats, potatoes, coconut, vegetable seeds, ragi etc.
- Use sea salt and rock salt in your meals.
- Make cashews, almonds and walnuts your best friend.
Below are a few measures which you can take to combat vitamin B12 deficiency and health issues related to it:
- Eat more clams, tuna, and salmon.
- Drink only low-fat milk.
- Eat chicken.
- Eat fortified cereals and eggs for your breakfast.
The HealthifyMe Note
Many supplements include active substances with significant biological effects. In certain circumstances, it could harm them and affect or complicate your health. Some supplements have more active chemicals than their labels indicate. Furthermore, hazardous chemicals and even toxins are generally discovered in certain supplements. In addition, before making any dietary changes and taking any supplement available on the market, you must consult your healthcare provider. Everyone is different; hence what works for others might not work for you.
More or less, every nutrient can be lacking in some way. However, the flaws mentioned above are so far the most prevalent. Children, young women, the elderly, vegetarians, and vegans appear to be the most vulnerable to various deficits. Therefore, eating a well-balanced diet rich in complete, nutrient-dense items is the most excellent method to avoid deficiencies. On the other hand, supplements may be necessary for persons who do not get enough through their diet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What are three common symptoms of nutrient deficiencies?
A. Symptoms generally vary as per the kind of nutrient deficiency. While there are numerous symptoms related to nutrient deficiencies, the most common deficiencies include excessive hair loss, delayed wound healing, joint and muscle pain and irregular heartbeat.
Q. What is the most common nutritional deficiency?
A. The most common nutrient deficiency is iron deficiency. According to research, it affects roughly 20-25 % of the global total, primarily children and women. Blood loss due to Menstruation makes iron insufficiency more frequent in women of reproductive age. The severity of blood loss, like regularly donating blood, poor bioavailability of foods, and pregnancy problems, raises the risk of iron deficiency.
Q. What happens when your body has nutrient deficiencies?
A. Weight loss, exhaustion, and mood swings are all symptoms of malnutrition. In the short run, inadequate nutrition can result in stress, burnout, and inability to function. It can also lead to the likelihood of getting certain diseases and other health issues over time, like overweight or obesity, high blood pressure and tooth damage.
Q. What causes a nutritional deficiency?
A. Nutritional deficiency occurs due to the body not getting enough nutrients. Poor diet, chronic or severe health problems, drugs, changed nutrient metabolism, or a mix of these variables can cause nutrient deficits or illnesses. In addition, it can affect the amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients inside the body.
Q. What are the diseases caused by a lack of minerals?
A. Mineral deficiency can be divided into five categories: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Long-term calcium deficiency can result in osteopenia or a loss of bone mineral density. If osteopenia is not treatable, it can lead to osteoporosis. Iron deficiency leads to anaemia. Potassium depletion can result in muscular paralysis or abnormal heart rhythms.
Magnesium deficiency can cause seizures and irregular heartbeats. In addition, malabsorption syndrome, sickle cell disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic ailments are all linked to zinc deficiency.
Q. What should I eat for my nutrition deficiency?
A. Your diet depends on the type of nutrient deficiency you have. However, there are certain food items rich in every nutrient. Iron, protein and zinc can be present in meat, fish, eggs, legumes, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Meat, fish, dairy, complete grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens are all high in niacin. Biotin, also contained in egg yolks and organ meat, is abundant in these meals.
Q. What are the most common mineral deficiencies?
A. The most common mineral deficiencies include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc deficiency. If ignored, they can all result in significant health issues. Osteoporosis, anaemia, paralysis, and convulsions are a few of these. A nutritious diet can help you make up for these deficiencies.
Q. What are the common symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in plants?
A. Plants that lack nutrients will exhibit yellowed leaves, interveinal yellowing of leaves, shortened internodes, stunted growth, or unusual pigmentation like red, purple, or bronze leaves. Due to nutrient movement in the plant, these symptoms arise in different plant regions.
Q. How can you tell if you have a vitamin D deficiency?
A. A vitamin D shortage can present as bone pain and muscular weakness. Most people, however, have mild symptoms. However, insufficient vitamin D can harm your health even if you don’t have any symptoms.
Q. How are nutritional deficiencies diagnosed?
A. Certain macronutrients and micronutrients can be measurable in the blood through nutrition testing. Doctors can identify nutritional deficits by comparing test findings to a standard range of normal levels. In addition, nutritional testing can help check blood chemistry, hormonal activity, gut health, metabolic function, blood sugar management, dietary sensitivities and allergies, organ function etc.