- Vitamin D is essential for your bones and teeth
- Protein can help in weight loss and muscle building
- Eat a well-balanced diet for optimal health
Nutrient deficiencies exist in various age groups and manifest in different across various ethnic groups. These deficiencies, if left uncontrolled, could lead to serious health issues and increased risk of certain diseases. Therefore, it is advised to consume a well-balanced diet which can ensure the intake of all essential nutrients. Nutrient deficiencies also restrict the optimum growth of the body. But the good news is nutrient deficiencies can be prevented and also overcome by right nutrition support. Let's have a look at some common deficiencies and ways to prevent them.
Common nutrient deficiencies
The most common nutrient deficiencies seen are- protein, vitamin A, B, C, D, calcium, folate, iodine, and iron.
Protein-energy undernutrition which was earlier known as protein-energy malnutrition is seen in children of growing age who have no access to nutrients and also seen in older people who have limited access to quality nutrition, having anorexia, depression or long hours of fasting/starvation.
In children, two common forms of protein-energy malnutrition are kwashiorkor and marasmus
Marasmus: Weight loss is due to fat and muscle loss.
Kwashiorkor: Weight loss is due to diet deficient in protein but predominant in carbohydrates.
A well-balanced diet as per RDA (recommended dietary allowances) for age can help prevent these deficiencies.
When it comes to deficiencies due to lack of vitamins and minerals intake, the list is huge. According to WHO anaemia still tops the list.
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia and is defined by low haemoglobin concentration. Children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable group of population. Anaemia in pregnant women increases the risk of mothers' death during pregnancy or childbirth and also results in low birth weight infants.
Heme sources: Red meat, organ meat, shellfish are very good sources of heme iron with good bio-availability.
Non-heme sources: Kidney beans, pumpkin, sesame, squash seeds, garden cress seeds, sunflower seeds, black dates are good sources of non-heme iron however bioavailability is low.
3. Vitamin A:
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for immune function and healthy eyesight. Deficiency of Vitamin A can result in blindness, suppression of immunity that can make the deficient population prone to infections.
Solution: Vitamin A supplementation to children ages 6-59 months is highly effective in preventing the deficiency and reducing mortality in women and children. It is important to consume adequate Vitamin A in the diet. Also, it is important to note that excess Vitamin A intake leads to vitamin A toxicity.
Bright colour fruits and vegetables rich in beta carotenes like carrots, spinach, broccoli, red yellow bell pepper, pumpkins, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and sweet potato are good sources of Vitamin A.
4. Vitamin D:
It is a fat-soluble vitamin having steroid hormone-like function in the body and has a major role in nutrient gene interaction that is it can turn on and off several genes. Vitamin D3 is responsible for calcium absorption required for maintaining good bone mineral density also helps in preventing rickets, osteoporosis, lowers the risk of fractures and helps building strong immunity.
Dietary sources: Fish and fish oil supplement, cheese, fortified milk.
Also read: Everything about vitamin D
5. Vitamin B12:
Vitamin B 12 or cobalamine is a water-soluble vitamin responsible brain and neurological function. Deficiency may lead to megaloblastic anemia, atrophic gastritis wherein thinning of the abdominal lining is seen, pernicious anemia wherein there is reduced absorption of vitamin B12 takes place, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite infestation are some of the conditions that affect the small intestine.
Besides this following a fad diet may also lead to Vitamin B 12 deficiency.
Dietary sources: Shell fishes, egg yolk, milk products, seaweeds are some of the good sources of Vitamin B12.
5. Iodine deficiency:
Iodine is responsible for the production of thyroid hormone that is responsible for regulating metabolic changes, growth and repair. In children, it can lead to growth abnormalities and mental retardation.
Dietary sources: Fish, egg dairy and seaweed are rich sources of iodine.
It is very important to note that not having access to certain nutrients is not the only reason. These days following a fad diet is also one of the leading causes of nutrition deficiencies.
Consuming any nutrient in excess is also harmful to your health. Always consult an expert before adding supplements to your kids' diet.
(Mrs. Sweedal Trinidade, Senior Dietetics Officer, Dietary Services, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and MRC, Mumbai)
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