Vitamins are nutrients essential for good health, and perform a number of vital functions like ensuring proper metabolism and immunity. Since a deficiency of essential vitamins can have serious consequences, it is important to be aware of the causes and consequences of deficiency.
Causes of Vitamin Deficiency
Studies have shown that deficiency of vitamins like D, E, B6, B12 and folic acid is most common, and some factors are responsible for the deficiency of one or more essential vitamins. The most common cause of deficiency is a diet that is not balanced, thus lacking the required amounts of the vitamins required. For example, people who adopt a macrobiotic diet or one aimed at a weight loss program do not consume a balanced diet. Moreover, physically strenuous activities lead to a depletion of nutrient levels.
There are other factors that make some people more prone to vitamin deficiency. Those living alone, the elderly and pre and post menopausal women are more vulnerable and often suffer from the symptoms of vitamin deficiency. People living alone may neglect to cook or eat regular meals and lack a well balanced diet. A poor quality or restricted diet over a long period leads to a deficiency of vitamin B 6.
Elderly people generally go out less and have limited exposure to the sun. Moreover, they usually consume less milk, which like sunlight, is a source of vitamin D, leading to a deficiency of the vitamin. Vegetarians in this age group often have a restricted diet leading to gastrointestinal disorders, which hinders absorption of vitamin B 12. Vitamin B 12 is found mainly in non-vegetarian food and dairy products, so vegetarians, especially vegans could suffer from its deficiency. Moreover, its absorption is hindered by certain kinds of medication.
Excess consumption of alcohol leads to a decreased absorption of vitamin B6. A diet lacking in vegetables and fruits can lead to a deficiency of vitamin C, while those who do not consume milk or suffer from lactose intolerance are prone to calcium deficiency.
Results and Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamins are essential for health, so a deficiency causes serious problems. Certain symptoms are seen in cases of deficiency. Deficiency of vitamin A causes problems of the skin and gastrointestinal tract, retarded growth of the skeleton and night blindness.
Muscular weakness, leg cramps, digestive problems and irritability are symptoms of vitamin B1 deficiency, while weakness, low blood counts, inflammation of the tongue, mouth ulcers and dandruff are caused by lack of vitamin B2. Vitamin B3 deficiency leads to pellagra, while lowered immunity, skin problems and even mental confusion are due to lack of vitamin B6. Vitamin B5 is an antioxidant required for bodily processes, normal growth and reproduction, so depression and heart problems result from its deficiency. Lack of vitamin B12 leads to pernicious anemia.
Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, and lack of vitamin D results in rickets. Deficiency of Vitamin E causes weakness, as it affects the nervous system. Moreover, it leads to vision related problems and loss of muscle mass. Finally, lack of vitamin K causes gastrointestinal bleeding and easy bruising.
Vitamins perform major functions in the body, and are essential for overall good health. Deficiency is caused by factors like an inadequate or restricted diet and lack of absorption. Lack of different vitamins is manifested in symptoms like vision related problems, weakness and low immunity. Therefore, it is essential to guard against the factors that cause deficiency and recognize the symptoms.