Providing your body with essential vitamins and minerals is essential to establishing a healthy aging process and improving daily biological function. The majority of Americans do not adhere to a healthy eating pattern. Lack of physical activity combined with an energy-dense and nutrient-poor diet can predispose you to chronic disease and nutrient deficiencies, affecting nearly 10% of the US population.. We will talk about some of the most common nutrient deficiencies so that you can ensure you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet for optimal health and wellness.
Being told you have a nutrient deficiency after your annual blood sample check never feels good, especially when you think you’re eating all the right things. Rest assured, the majority of nutrient deficiencies can be supplemented with additional vitamins and minerals, to raise serum levels. Nutrient deficiencies can result from a lack of certain essential vitamins and minerals in your diet, or from genetic predispositions characterized by malabsorption.
A poor diet or getting too little or too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be bad for your overall health. Malnutrition affects billions of people worldwide, putting some populations at risk of chronic disease.
Types include malnutrition, undernutrition, and overnutrition. Undernutrition or poor eating and lack of absorption of nutrients can result from not eating enough protein, low calories, and micronutrient deficiencies. Excessive consumption of nutrients, such as calories, carbohydrates, protein, or fats, can lead to micronutrient deficiencies and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
What are the most common nutrient deficiencies?
1. B vitamins (vitamin B6 and vitamin B12)
Epidemiological studies have shown that B-complex vitamins are one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the United States. Vitamin B12 is essential for DNA synthesis, blood formation, as well as for brain and nerve health. Research indicates that 3-6% of Americans have a vitamin B12 deficiency while 14-20% have a marginal vitamin B12 deficiency. [R]. Vitamin B12 deficiency increases with age and is highly prevalent among vegetarians or vegans, ranging from 32-90%. [R].
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2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and it acts like a steroid hormone in your body. Vitamin D plays an essential role in the growth and maintenance of bones, by increasing calcium absorption. 50-90% of vitamin D is absorbed through the skin via sunlight, while the remainder is obtained through dietary sources. Twenty minutes of sunshine per day with more than 40% of the skin exposed is required to prevent vitamin D deficiency. [R]. More than 50% of the world’s population suffers from a vitamin D deficiency, affecting more than 1 billion people [R].
Vitamin D deficiency can result from several causes.
Those with malabsorption syndromes, such as celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, gastric bypass, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pancreatic insufficiency, and cystic fibrosis may result in a vitamin D deficiency. In addition, reduced exposure to sunlight, increased liver metabolism and organ resistance can contribute to vitamin D deficiency.
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Iron deficiency is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies worldwide and can lead to microcytic anaemia, decreased working capacity, fatigue, as well as impaired immune and endocrine function. [R]. Iron deficiency affects more than 25% of people.
Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which is primarily responsible for transporting oxygen to organs and tissues. Iron deficiency is characterized by a low red blood cell count and is usually experienced by women and young children, which can lead to fatigue, pallor, shortness of breath, and mild exertion.
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Magnesium is a key mineral involved in several hundred enzymatic reactions within the human body. It has been reported that 70% of adults aged 70 years or over are deficient in magnesium [R]. Low magnesium intake is linked to many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis [R].
Magnesium is necessary for bone mineral density. As we age, your bones gradually lose their density and become weak. Studies have shown that a higher intake of magnesium can increase bone density by preserving skeletal muscle mass, which helps prevent osteoporosis and age-related diseases such as leucopenia and osteoporosis. [R]
Magnesium also supports sleep. The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain, which coordinates circadian rhythms in other tissues across the body. Studies show that magnesium can improve insomnia symptoms, sleep duration, and improve sleep quality.
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Nutrient Deficiencies: The Takeaway
If you find that you are deficient in nutrients in certain vitamins, the easiest way to increase your levels to a healthy level is through supplementation. Adjusting your diet is also essential to address any additional deficiencies you may have to improve your overall health and wellness. Low energy, fatigue, brain fog, lack of sleep, and chronic illnesses are usually directly related to your nutrition. Your best option would be to hire a certified nutrition coach, to help improve your quality of life, by improving your diet for better health.
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