Are you getting too little of one or more critical nutrient in your diet? If you’re like most americans, you probably are.
Between 2002 and 2011, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) conducted a series of surveys to determine the amounts of key nutrients found in the diets of typical americans. To do so, NCHS tracked the food intake of thousands of participants over a number of weeks. The results reveal that most Americans obtain less than the recommended amount of several key nutrients critical to health and wellbeing. This article outlines the most common deficiencies negatively affecting the health of millions.
Vitamin A regulates growth and specialization of most cells in the human body by influencing the expression of several hundred genes. It is important for maintaining healthy vision, bones, skin and teeth. Vitamin A also helps support organ function, reproductive health and immunity.
50% of adult men and 43% of adult women get less than the estimated average requirement* for Vitamin A.
Mild vitamin A deficiency may contribute to the following symptoms and health conditions:
- Increased risk of developing respiratory infections and gastroenteritis.
- Impaired bone development
- Risk of infertility and increased risk of miscarriage.
- Dry, itchy skin
- Poor night vision
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. It plays a critical role in hundreds of enzyme reactions including protein synthesis, energy production, nerve transmission, ion transport and bone production.
56% of men and 55% of women get less than the estimated average requirement* for Magnesium
Mild magnesium deficiency may contribute to the following health issues:
- Poor blood sugar control and increased susceptibility to developing type-2 diabetes
- Painful and frequent headaches, including migraine
- Heart palpitations and increased risk for developing heard disease
- Symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Slower recovering from stress and exercise
- Elevated risk for developing asthma
Potassium is an essential dietary mineral and the most abundant electrolyte inside cells. Potassium, along with sodium, is critical to maintenance of cell membrane potential, which is responsible for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.
95% of men and 97% of women get less than the adequate intake** level of Potassium
Inadequate dietary intake of potassium may contribute to the following symptoms and health issues:
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Bloating and constipation
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease
- Progression of kidney disease and contribution to formation of kidneys tones
- Bone deterioration
Vitamin D supports bone formation by regulating absorption of utilization of calcium and potassium. The biologically active form of vitamin D,1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, influences expression of hundreds of genes involved in skeletal and other biological functions. As a result, Vitamin D plays many roles in the body, ranging from supporting nerve signaling to enabling healthy immune function. Along with Vitamin A, Vitamin D supports cellular
93% of women and 97% of men get less than the estimated average requirement* for dietary Vitamin D. However, vitamin D is synthesized by the skin upon exposure to sunlight and most individuals get a least a portion of their vitamin D in this way. Consequently, rates of actual vitamin D deficiency are estimated at around 50%, increasing with age since older individuals may have more trouble synthesizing Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.
People who get too little vitamin D may be susceptible to the following symptoms and health conditions:
- tiredness and muscle weakness
- aches and pains
- soft and brittle bones; elevated risk of fracture
- elevated risk of certain cancers
Omega 3 Fats
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of two types of fat referred to as essential fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in certain plant foods in a form called ALA and also in fish and seafood in “long-chain” forms referred to as DHA and EPA . All three forms of omega 3 fats are critical to health and contribute to healthy inflammatory response. In addition, DHA and EPA are critical structural building blocks of cell membranes, particularly in brain and nerve tissue.
45% of men and women get less than the adequate intake** level for ALA. 90% of men and women get less than the adequate intake level of DHA and EPA.
Low concentrations of omega-3 fats, particularly DHA and EPA are linked to increased risk of death from all causes. Additionally, an omega-3 deficiency can contribute to the following symptoms and health conditions:
- Dry flaky skin
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Increased susceptibility to neurodegenerative disease
- Impaired learning and memory
- Elevated risk for stroke and heart disease
Vitamin C is responsible for many enzyme reactions in the body, including production of collagen, carnitine and neurochemical including dopamine and epinephrin. Collagen supports wound healing and is needed to maintain integrity of skin, connective tissue, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals. In addition, vitamin C improves absorption of iron and supports healthy immune function.
48% of men and 42% of women get less than the estimated average requirement* for Vitamin C.
Getting enough Vitamin C can help improve stress tolerance, reduce susceptibility to colds, preserve healthy brain function, and improve subjective well being. In addition, higher levels of vitamin C have been associated with decreased risk of cancer and all-cause mortality.
Vitamin E serves as an anti-oxidant, protecting unsaturated fats in the body from oxidation and preventing free radical damage in cell membranes. In addition, Vitamin E boosts immunity, helps widen blood vessels to prevent clotting, and is used by cells to communicate with each other.
85% of men and 92% of women get less than the estimated average requirement* for Vitamin E.
Getting enough amount of Vitamin E helps prevent cognitive decline as a result of aging and may reduce risk of infection and bone fracture. Mild Vitamin E deficiency may also increase risk of developing chronic disease.
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting, healthy bones, prevention of blood vessel calcification, and regulation of cell function.
74% of men and 59% of women get less than the adequate intake** level of Vitamin K.
Vitamin K comes in multiple forms. Vitamin K1 is most abundant in diet, and is noted for its role in contributing to blood clotting. However, vitamin K1 is no less important that vitamin K2, which works in conjunction with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to preserve bone and cardiovascular health. There is limited evidence that a portion of dietary K1 may be converted to K2 in the GI tract, although it’s prudent to ensure adequate supply of both in diet.
Mild vitamin K deficiency may contribute to the development of heart disease and osteoporosis over a number of years.
Vitamin B12 supports healthy brain and nerve function by preserving myelin sheaths, which protect nerve cells and aid in nerve transmission, and contributing to synthesis of neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 also keeps blood cells healthy, preventing a form of anemia know as megaloblastic anemia that causes weakness, dizziness and fatigue.. Along with other b-vitamins, Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in supporting healthy metabolism, including breakdown of homocysteine, which is correlated with heart disease.
According to nutritional guidelines, most americans get plenty of B12. According to NCHS surveys, less than 3% of americans consume less than the Estimated Average Requirement* for B12. Despite this finding, studies are revealing deficiency or borderline levels of this critical nutrient in as much as 40% of the US adult population. This puzzling finding may be explained by the fact that many adults have difficulty absorbing a sufficient amount of dietary b12.
Low or deficient levels of b12 may contribute to the following symptoms and health conditions:
- Memory loss, disorientation
- Mood changes or depression
- Weakness and difficulty walking
- Elevated risk for certain cancers
Deficiency RatesThis chart reflects the portion of male and female adults over the age of 19 that get less than the estimated average requirement or adequate intake level as defined by the Institute of Medicine. Data is based on dietary intake surveys taken as part of NHANES 2009-2010
|Adult Males||Adult Females|
Note on Terminology
“Estimated average requirement” and “adequate intake” are official reference values published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences as part of the Dietary Reference Intake system.
* Estimated Average Requirement (EAR): the daily intake of a nutrient required to meet the nutrient requirements of 50% of individuals.
** Adequate Intake (AI): the level of a particular nutrient assumed to meet the nutritional requirements of most individuals. AI is provided when there is not enough evidence to provide an EAR.