3 common diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies

The modern world supplies more calories than most of us need. Unfortunately, the cheap, abundant food often has the fewest nutrients. Yet there are people who eat a healthy diet and find themselves suffering a range of problems. This is sometimes caused by genetic deficiencies that require nutritional supplements if your diet can’t meet your needs.

Let’s learn more about nutritional deficiency diseases.


Anemia

Anemia is one of the more common nutritional deficiency diseases. It can be caused by a lack of iron in the diet. It could be made worse by a lack of vitamin B12 or other nutrients required to make red blood cells. The latter is a major problem for vegans. Yet anemia can be worsened by one’s genetic makeup. On the other hand, disorders like hemochromatosis cause the body to hoard iron. The solution, in this case, is to lower your iron intake.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that results in thinning bones. While we may worry about weakening teeth and a stooped back caused by this condition, it is the association with broken bones that lead to permanent disability. For example, many women who supposedly fall and break a hip actually had the upper leg bone break, leading to the fall. In other cases, the weaker bones contribute to disability since arthritic joints are difficult to replace with artificial ones if you have weak bones. And the body needs to be able to heal quickly if the person is to return to normal life as quickly as possible.

Note that pregnant and breastfeeding women need to increase their calcium intake to meet the needs of both themselves and their children.

Diabetes

Diabetes rates have skyrocketed due to the modern diet heavy in carbohydrates and sugar. There are entire ethnic groups at greater risk of diabetes than the general population. There are genetic tests that can determine if you’re at greater risk of diabetes than average. Note that this doesn’t eliminate the need to have fasting glucose tests done on a regular basis.

Other Diseases Due to Nutritional Deficiencies

There are a number of diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies, though there may or may not be genetic tests to determine your susceptibility. For example, scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. Everyone will suffer weakness, slow healing, and bleeding gums if they aren’t getting enough of this vital nutrient. Scurvy is fairly rare these days, but vitamin A deficiency remains a major problem worldwide. It contributes to night blindness among children in the developing world.

Rickets is due to a lack of vitamin D. Because you are either not eating enough foods like fish rich in vitamin D or spending enough time in the sun, your body can’t get enough vitamin D to maintain healthy bones. In children, this can contribute to the bowing of the legs. In older adults with osteoporosis, it accelerates bone loss.

Iodine deficiency impairs neural function and was once a leading cause of mental retardation. The solution was mandating the sale of iodized salt. Yet trace mineral deficiencies remain common. For example, a surprising number of people don’t get enough magnesium, copper, or zinc.

Image courtesy of Getty Images
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