Nutritional Deficiency

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The body requires many different vitamins and minerals that are crucial for both body development and preventing disease. These vitamins and minerals are often referred to as micronutrients. They aren’t produced naturally in the body, and are obtained from diet.

A nutritional deficiency occurs when the body doesn’t absorb or get the necessary amount of a nutrient from food. Deficiencies can lead to a variety of health problems. These can include digestion problems, skin disorders, stunted or defective bone growth, and even dementia.

70% of Indians are vitamin deficient

    • Protein deficiency
    • Vitamin deficiency
    • Mineral deficiency

70% of Indians are vitamin deficient and 90% of vegetarians and 85% of non-vegetarians are protein deficient in India

Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) contributes to 60% of the total 10 million deaths of less than 5 year old children in India. Two forms of PEM are:

  • Kwashiorkor: a form of malnutrition caused by lack of protein in diet characterized by edema or swelling in all body parts except ankles, feet and belly
  • Marasmus: severe form of malnutrition characterized by weight loss, dehydration and chronic diarrhea

Vitamin A deficiency

    • Vitamin A is a group of nutrients crucial for eye health and reproductive health in men and women. It also plays a part in strengthening the immune system against infections.
    • According to WHO, lack of vitamin A is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children
    • Pregnant women deficient in vitamin A have higher maternal mortality rates
    • For new born babies breast milk is the best source of Vitamin A
    • Beta-carotene, a nutrient that functions as an antioxidant and is found in red, orange, yellow, and dark green pigmented produce. Beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A in the body when needed.

Food high in Vitamin A are:

    • Milk
    • Eggs
    • Green vegetables such as broccoli, and spinach
    • Orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin
    • Reddish-yellow fruits such as apricots, papaya, peaches, and tomatoes
    • Vitamin A deficiency can cause poor eyesight, blindness and night blindness or Xeropthalmia
    • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiency
    • Thiamine is an important part of nervous system and also helps the body in converting carbohydrates into energy as part of metabolism
    • Thiamine deficiency is most often seen in people who chronically abuse alcohol; alcohol reduces the body’s ability to absorb thiamine, store thiamine in the liver, and convert thiamine to a usable form
    • Lack of thiamine can result in weight loss and fatigue as well as some cognitive symptoms such as confusion and short-term memory loss
    • Beri Beri is the most common disease caused by deficiency of vitamin B1
    • Thiamine deficiency can also lead to nerve and muscle damage and can affect the heart
    • Thiamine deficiency is a common cause of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a form of dementia
    • Good sources of vitamin B1 are eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and pork

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) deficiency

    • Niacin (vitamin B-3) is another mineral that helps the body to convert food into energy
    • Niacin is found in most animal proteins, and also in peanuts and whole grains
    • The deficiency of niacin is also accompanied by a short supply of the amino acids, tryptophan and lysine or the excessive presence of lysine in the body
    • A severe deficiency of niacin is often referred to as pellagra, which is characterized by “the for Ds” - diarrhea, dementia, dermatitis and death

Vitamin B9 (Folate) deficiency

    • Folate helps the body in production of RBCs and DNA
    • It also helps brain development and nervous system functioning
    • Folate is especially important for fetal development. It plays a crucial role in formation of a developing child’s brain and spinal cord. Folate deficiency can lead to severe birth defects, growth problems, or anemia.
    • Folate is found in beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, meat, whole grains, fortified grain products

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) deficiency

    • Vitamin B12 is essential for blood formation, brain and nerve function
    • Every cell in the body needs vitamin B12 to function normally
    • Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, hence people who do not eat animal products are at an increased risk of B12 deficiency
    • Studies show that80-90% of vegetarians and vegans are highly likely to be deficient in vitamin B12
    • The absorption of vitamin B12 is more complex than the absorption of other vitamins, because it needs help from a protein known as intrinsic factor
    • Vitamin B12 deficiency causes megaloblastic anemia, a blood disorder in which the red blood cells are enlarged in size
    • Major dietary sources of Vitamin B12 are shellfish, organ meat, meat, eggs and milk products

Vitamin D deficiency

  • Vitamin D also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is essential for healthy bones. It helps the body to maintain the levels of calcium in order to regulate the development of teeth and bones
  • People with darkly pigmented skin are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency
  • Lack of vitamin D can lead to stunted or poor bone growth. Osteoporosis, caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D, can lead to porous and fragile bones that break very easily
  • The best source of vitamin D is sunlight; research suggests that 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week on the face, arms, neck, or back can provide enough vitamin D
  • Vitamin D is found naturally in only few foods like fish liver oil, fatty fish, mushroom and egg yolk

Calcium deficiency

    • Calcium helps in development of strong bones and teeth. It also helps in normal functioning of heart, nerves, and muscles
    • A calcium deficiency often doesn’t show symptoms right away, but it can lead to serious health problems over time
    • On insufficient consumption of calcium, body uses calcium from bones leading to bone loss
    • Calcium deficiencies are often related to low bone mass and weakening of bones
    • Calcium deficiency can lead to convulsions and abnormal heart rhythms and can even be life-threatening.
    • Postmenopausal women experience greater bone loss due to changing hormones and have more trouble absorbing calcium
    • Best sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-set tofu, and small fish with bones. Vegetables such as kale and broccoli also have calcium, and many cereals and grains are also calcium-fortified.

Iron deficiency

    • Iron is the main component of red blood cells, where it binds with hemoglobin and transports oxygen to cells
    • Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional deficiency worldwide
    • In case of iron-deficiency, body produces fewer red blood cells and the red blood cells it produces are smaller and paler than healthy blood cells and are also less efficient at delivering oxygen to tissues and organs
    • Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a blood disorder that causes fatigue, weakness and is characterized by lower hemoglobin and decrease in the red blood cell count
    • Iron is found in foods like dark leafy greens, red meat, and egg yolks
    • India tops the list of nations with most anemic women and children

Iodine deficiency

  • Iodine is an essential mineral for normal thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones
  • Thyroid hormones regulate the metabolic rate and are involved in many processes in the body, such as growth, brain development and bone maintenance
  • Iodine deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world
  • Over 71 million people are suffering from iodine deficiency diseases in India
  • Goitre is the most common iodine deficiency disorder which is characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland
  • Iodine deficiency can also cause mental retardation and other developmental abnormalities
  • Common sources of iodine are iodized salt, saltwater fish, seaweed, dairy and eggs
  • The most common symptom of iodine deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland, also known as goiter. It may also cause an increase in heart rate, shortness of breath and weight gain

The specific signs and symptoms of a nutritional deficiency depends on the nutrient which a body lacks. However, some general signs and symptoms are as follows:

  • Pallor, or pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Poor concentration
  • Unusual food cravings
  • Hair loss
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feeling faint or fainting
  • Depression
  • Tingling and numbness of the joints
  • Menstrual issues, such as missed periods or very heavy cycles

Sometimes vitamin and mineral deficiencies take time to manifest into symptoms, but diagnostic tests can help detect these at an early stage. Following is the list of tests that can help detect nutritional deficiencies, and help in having an informed conversation with your doctor:p>

  • Routine blood test
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Stool test
  • Vitamin levels (e.g., Serum Vitamin D3, Serum Vitamin B12)
  • Hemoglobin
  • Serum Ferritin, etc.
  • Iron Studies

    Test Code: BH102G

    Pre Test Information:
    Age, Transfusion history required

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  • Blood Sugar (F, PP)

    Test Code: BH066G

    Pre Test Information:
    Fasting & 2 hrs after lunch

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  • HbA1C

    Test Code: BHH003

    Pre Test Information:
    No specific preconditions required

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    Test Code: BHV016

    Pre Test Information:
    No specific preconditions required

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    Test Code: BHC069

    Pre Test Information:
    Age and Gender required

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    Test Code: BHV011

    Pre Test Information:
    Require Treatment history

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