Nutritional deficiency is a state where there are insufficient nutrients present for the body to function normally. Nutritional deficiency can affect one or more bodily functions and vary greatly in severity. Being deficient in a particular nutrient can cause the body to behave in a number of abnormal ways. For example, deficiency in calcium and phosphorus may cause problems for bone structure, nails and hair, whereas being deficient in protein will affect muscle and energy levels.
Nutritional deficiency is state dependent in that at different stages of development the body requires varying levels of nutrients. Examples of this are pregnancy, teenage growth and old age. Our nutrient requirements change with age and circumstance and are affected by lifestyle and environmental changes such as temperature and diet.
There are five main categories of nutritional deficiency. Two of these are forms of malnutrition; marasmus and kwashiorkor, and the remaining three are the more commonly known deficiencies; vitamin, mineral and protein deficiency.
Marasmus is a form of malnutrition caused by severe deficiency of protein and calories: Symptoms include muscle wasting, impaired immunity, growth retardation, vomiting, loss of fat stores and delayed wound healing.
Kwashikor is another form of malnutrition and caused by severe protein deficiency. Symptoms include stunted growth, weight loss, delayed puberty, impaired immunity, lethargy and peripheral oedema.
- Vitamin deficiency
Vitamin deficiencies come in various forms depending on the vitamin type. Common vitamin deficiencies include B12 and vitamin D and vitamin E. The severity of a vitamin deficiency depends on the degree of deficiency. Symptoms of vitamin deficiency include increased illness from colds and flu, hair deterioration, eyesight problems, teeth deterioration, nail brittleness, skin deterioration.
- Mineral deficiency
Mineral deficiencies come in various forms depending on the mineral type. Common mineral deficiencies include zinc, iron and magnesium. The severity of a mineral deficiency depends on the degree of deficiency. Symptoms of mineral deficiency include skin deterioration, blood symptoms, neurological symptoms, hair deterioration, gastrointestinal symptoms, bone brittleness, nail brittleness.
- 5. Protein deficiency
Protein deficiency is extremely common and varies greatly in severity. There are a number of symptoms ranging from, reduced energy levels, nail brittleness, fatigue, constipation, muscle wasting and weakness, hair loss and reduced blood pressure, to more serious symptoms such as growth problems in children, fluid retention, skin rashes and metal problems.
The majority of nutritional deficiencies can be solved through specialist treatment and dietary adjustment. Vitamin, mineral and protein supplements will adequately address basic nutritional deficiency, but in more extreme cases where the body is failing to absorb a particular nutrient or set or nutrients and causing subsequent bodily dysfunction, hospitalization will be necessary.
Although nutritional deficiency is viewed by most as a fairly unserious condition, there are on average 4,288 deaths per year in the U.S related to nutritional deficiency.