Severe vitamin and nutrient deficiencies—and the serious complications that come with them—are rare in the United States. Over-nutrition is more of a prevalent issue than under-nutrition, and people are more likely to suffer the ill effects of excessive vitamin intake—largely due to the overuse of supplements—than they are to have a deficiency problem. However, even low-grade vitamin deficiencies can negatively affect your health, and more serious deficiencies are possible. We’ve compiled some info on the most common deficiencies, and who’s most at risk.
First and foremost, anyone with a disease or disorder that causes their body to absorb nutrients poorly (such as Chrohn’s disease, celiac disease or cystic fibrosis), or anyone who has had a part of their stomach or intestines removed, is at risk of serious vitamin deficiencies and should be under a doctor’s advisement as to how to meet their nutrition needs.
Vitamin C Deficiencies
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that fights free radicals. It also helps repair body tissue and supports your immune system. Too little vitamin C can lead to anemia, bleeding gums, slower wound healing, swollen, painful joints, a decreased ability to fight infections and weakened tooth enamel.
Who’s At Risk:
Guys with veggie and fruit issues, and those who smoke are at risk. So eat your leafy greens and drink your orange juice every day, and if you smoke or you’re around second-hand smoke often, you’ll need extra vitamin C.
Vitamin D Deficiencies
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that your body can create on its own through exposure to sunlight. It’s also found in egg yolks, fish and fortified milk. Vitamin D deficiencies may have few or no symptoms, yet still pose a serious threat. A lack of vitamin D has been associated with an increased chance of death during a heart attack and cognitive impairment in older adults. In addition, studies have linked vitamin D intake to possible prevention and treatment of diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Who’s at Risk:
Those who live in climates with little sun and those with dark skin are at risk for vitamin D deficiency due to their lack of direct exposure to sunlight. Vegans and people with milk allergies are also at risk, as they don’t consume dairy products. Some people’s kidneys have trouble converting vitamin D to its active form. And people with a BMI of 30 or greater are also at risk, as they often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, and is the only vitamin that can only be found in meat products. Vitamin B12 helps your body create its genetic material and is essential in the creation of blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a specific kind of anemia, which can cause weakness, tiredness or light-headedness, rapid heartbeat and breathing and pale skin. Untreated nutrient deficiencies can cause permanent nerve damage.
Who’s at Risk:
Alcoholics and those who use acid-reducing drugs long-term are at risk. Vegans are at serious risk, and vegetarians are at moderate risk, as—in spite of the fact that they consume dairy and eggs, they only get half of the daily amount of vitamin B12 they need.
If you believe you are at risk for a deficiency, consult your physician to for diagnosis and treatment options.