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What are the most common nutrient deficiencies?

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Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are incredibly common, despite all the foods and flavours in our modern society. Often unrelated to poor dietary habits, these deficiencies can occur simply because of pregnancy or old age, or when individuals choose to follow certain diets.

Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies are vitamin D, iron, magnesium and calcium.

Sarah Barber is a Brighton and Hove based nutritional therapist. Her Pure People clinic provides dietary programs for weight loss, detox, expectant mothers and babies and children. More from this expert.

  • Vitamin D deficiency

    According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect at least half the UK’s white population, up to 90% of the multi-ethnic population and a quarter of children.

    Symptoms of the deficiency include muscle weakness and pain. “Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium,” explains nutritional therapist Sarah Barber. “This means not getting enough can cause a softening of the bones known as osteomalacia. Over time this can develop into more serious weakening of the bones and an increased risk of fractures.”

    Pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with dark skin living far from the equator, as well as the elderly, are most at risk of vitamin D deficiency. “Old people are susceptible because they have a reduced capacity to synthesise vitamin D, and are more likely to stay indoors out of the sunlight,” explains Sarah.

  • Iron deficiency

    More than two billion people in the world have some degree of iron deficiency, according to the British Committee for Standards in Haematology.

    Symptoms include poor vision, indigestion, constipation, fatigue, poor appetite, brittle nails and increased susceptibility to infection. “If iron deficiency goes untreated, it can lead to iron deficiency anaemia,” warns Sarah. “This is when stores of iron are so depleted, the body’s unable to maintain adequate amounts of haemoglobin in the blood.”

    Pregnancy can sometimes lead to this because of the body’s increased demand for iron. Vegetarians and vegans may also be susceptible because of the lack of red meat, a good source of iron, in their diet.

  • Magnesium deficiency

    A lack of magnesium in the body can develop into blood sugar imbalances, muscular spasms and increased stress. “Magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common and the long-term effects are serious. If left unchecked, it can contribute to osteoporosis, blood clots, heart disease and strokes,” explains Sarah.

    “Certain dietary habits can also contribute to risk. For example, people who eat a diet high in processed foods and low in leafy green veg, as well as those who drink moderate to high amounts of alcohol, or have a high calcium intake.”


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Nutrition Expert sources the latest information and advice from a range of qualified doctors, nutritionists and coaches. We always endeavour to have the most up to date information possible and publish new content weekly. However with the constant research in this field sometimes some of our older articles can become out of date. If you see anything that you believe needs to be updated please let us know via our Contact Us page