Special Report

The Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies Among Americans

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Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine, commonly known as vitamin B6, is crucial for brain development among unborn babies as well as infants and toddlers, and is important for the immune system. Some foods that are rich in this important nutrient include chicken, fish, potatoes, chickpeas, and bananas. Vitamin B6 also gets added to breakfast foods, power bars, and powders. The body does not store vitamin B6, so it’s important to eat foods that contain it every day in order to not develop a deficiency. People with kidney disease or those who have a condition that hinders food absorption by the small intestine are at risk of lacking the vitamin.

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Iron is a crucial mineral that is found in every cell of the body. The body needs it to make the oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells, and myoglobin, which is found in muscles. Iron deficiency is most prevalent among young children and women of childbearing age and pregnant women, according to the CDC, and can cause developmental delays in children and preterm delivery in pregnant women. Iron deficiency results in anemia, a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Mild anemia often goes undiagnosed for a long time, but as it becomes more severe symptoms include fatigue, pale skin or brittle nails, and headaches. Treatment varies depending on the severity and often involves taking iron supplements. Some foods that are rich in iron include liver, oysters, red meat, sardines, spinach, broccoli, and some fortified foods.

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health. People who don’t have enough of it are at higher risk of bone density loss, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. People who are more likely to lack vitamin D are breastfed infants, older people, people with darker skin, and people with certain conditions such as kidney or liver disease. The body does not make vitamin D and can only get it from the sun, foods, or supplements. Good food sources of vitamin D include salmon, trout, swordfish, eggs, mushrooms, and some fortified foods such as milk.

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Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormone, which is essential to many body processes such as regulating calorie burn, affecting heartbeat and body temperature, controlling skin turnover and brain health. The body cannot make iodine and can only get it through food or supplements. Common food sources of iodine include cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, iodized salt, and soy milk. People with the highest risk of lacking enough iodine in their blood are those living in areas where the soil is iodine deficient because it produces crops with low iodine levels. Such places include mountainous areas and river valleys prone to flooding.

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C deficiency may lead to weakness, gum disease, skin problems, and weak immune system. People at risk of not having enough vitamin C are those with poor diets, smokers, people who drink too much alcohol, and people with kidney disease on dialysis. The important nutrient is in abundance in many foods, including red and green peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi, lemons, and grapefruit. Some signs of vitamin C deficiency include dry skin, slow-healing wounds, bleeding gums, and fatigue.

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