Vitamin Deficiency in America Today
When we think of nutritional deficiencies, third world countries are often the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, vitamin deficiencies are extensive in the United States and affect Americans from all walks of life. So, how did we get here?
Our Food Supply
Even though most of us have access to as much food as we want, it is not always healthy food. Busy lifestyles have forced many people to eat meals of highly processed and fast foods that are replete with added sodium and sugar. Factory farming processes have rendered the earth’s soil deficient in nutrients, which means less nutrients in the food supply.
Food processing and manufacturing practices further deplete nutrients that human bodies rely on for good health. And when added to the fact that most Americans do not follow the healthy eating guidelines, it’s no wonder that about half of Americans suffer from at least one, preventable chronic disease. (1)
Most Common Vitamin Deficiencies
While vitamin deficiencies are widespread, they vary from person to person. This is due to changes in diet, food sources and lifestyle factors like exercise or smoking as both create a need for extra nutritional support. At the same time, digestive problems can lead to absorption problems, so even if one is eating a healthy diet, they may not be able to absorb the vitamins that the food has to offer. Some common nutritional deficiencies include the following:
- Vitamin B6, which is important for immune support. A deficiency can lead to rashes, dry skin, and anemia, and deficiency is usually due to digestive issues. People with an overall vitamin B deficiency will usually have lack of B6, and deficiencies are more common in those who smoke, drink too much alcohol or have an autoimmune disease. Since B6 is important for immune support, getting enough is important for overall health. Some foods that include B6 are fish, poultry, spinach, bananas and nuts.
- Vitamin B12 aids in red blood cell production as well as support for the nervous system. Deficiencies are common in America and affects elderly people, vegetarians and those with digestive or absorption issues. Foods that supply B12 include shellfish, salmon and sardines. Beef, liver, eggs and cheese also provide B12, but in lesser amounts. For those who cannot get enough through diet, supplementation may help fill in the nutritional gap.
- Vitamin C is necessary to support immune function, as well as for healthy skin and hair. Deficiencies can lead to rough, bumpy skin, dry hair, premature wrinkles and susceptibility to cold and flu. Foods that are high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, cherries, and bell peppers.
- Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies manufacture it when we get adequate sun exposure. It is mainly deficient in people who don’t get enough sunshine or those who wear too much sunscreen while in the sun. Nutritionally, vegans, vegetarians and those with milk allergies are at risk for D deficiencies, since the best sources are fish, fish liver oils and egg yolks. Other food sources include fortified dairy and grain products, but some question if that type of vitamin D is absorbable for most people. This vitamin is important for bones, and not having enough in the body can lead to issues like soft bones, as well as lowered immunity.
- Vitamin K is actually two nutrients, vitamins K1 and K2, which are necessary to prevent blood-vessel calcification, especially if too much calcium is taken. (2) Sadly, the Western diet seriously lacks vitamin K, especially vitamin K2, leaving Americans prone to deficiencies. This nutrient is found mainly in leafy green vegetables and other green veggies like cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli and green beans.
- Iodine is not a vitamin but rather a trace element, and is worth mentioning due to its importance. It is imperative for thyroid health aids in the manufacturing of certain thyroid hormones. Deficiencies may be due to medications, pregnancy, lack of dietary iodine, and selenium deficiency.
- Iron is also not a vitamin but mineral that is necessary for healthy blood and energy. Deficiencies are common in America and may be due to vegetarianism, medications and overall poor diet. Anemia is the result of low blood iron and can result in fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin and cold hands and feet. Animal proteins are the main source of this nutrient.
The Solution for Vitamin Deficiency
Chronic disease and obesity are directly related to lifestyle and that includes diet. But other problems arise from vitamin deficiencies like fatigue, foggy head, poor skin quality, poor sleep, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, hair loss and more.
We know we should eat right, and not eating right can lead to serious health issues, including physical and mental health, but with today’s busy lifestyle that can be difficult. Resolve today to fill in the gap with strategies like these:
- Eat two servings of fruit every morning as a breakfast or snack for a fresh start to your day
- Make a breakfast smoothie easy with frozen kale, strawberries and a banana for lasting energy and extra nutrition
- Add a superfood powder to your smoothie or drink a superfood supplement in water or juice each day to power up
- Resolve to eat at least one green salad every day, even if it’s a small one
- Drink fresh-made vegetable juice if you simply cannot eat your veggies
- Be sure to consume healthy protein sources every day, especially if you are an older American, vegan, vegetarian, or physically active.
Sometimes we have a difficult time eating the right foods in the amounts necessary to fulfill our nutritional needs. When this happens, food supplements can help round out gaps in our dietary vitamin profile. If you use supplements, look for those that are from food sources and keep in mind that liquid vitamins are more easily absorbed than other types.
Studies show that at least 1/3 of Americans are deficient in at least one vitamin (3), in spite of being well fed. This is due to a variety of reasons including poor soil, processed foods, junk food, and the overall Western diet so inherent in the culture. Some experts also believe that the average adult may require more nutrients than what guidelines recommend, to help combat stress and illness.
Be proactive with diet and lifestyle so you don’t become part of the statistics. Use the above guidelines and strive to consume a healthy diet. And if healthy eating is a challenge for you, use a food based supplement to ensure you are getting all you need.
- US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans December 2015. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/. Accessed 7/8/2020
2 Maresz K. Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015;14(1):34-39.
3 Bird JK, Murphy RA, Ciappio ED, McBurney MI. Risk of Deficiency in Multiple Concurrent Micronutrients in Children and Adults in the United States. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):655. Published 2017 Jun 24. doi:10.3390/nu9070655