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Are You at Risk of Nutrient Deficiency?

ESTIMATED READING TIME 5 MINUTES

nutrient deficiency

Are you deficient in any nutrients? If you were, how would you know? Did you know that even if you eat a healthy diet, the odds are increasingly stacked against you obtaining enough nutrients from your food?

Nutrient Deficiency – an Overlooked Problem?

The shocking fact is nobody really knows how many people are at risk of nutrient deficiency. Until recently, the last meaningful worldwide study of nutrient status dated from over 30 years ago. In any case, it only looked at levels of anaemia, reflecting deficiency in iron or certain B vitamins.

The Worldwide Deficiency Epidemic

Nutritional surveys typically look only at certain nutrients in isolation. However, one recent study found, over twenty countries including the UK, 56% of preschool children were deficient in at least one nutrient out of iron, zinc and vitamin A. Not only that, but 69% of adult women were deficient in either iron, zinc, or folate 1. In the UK, over one-third of preschool children were low in iron, with one in ten women lacking in zinc and twice this number deficient in either iron or folate.

Why are Nutrient Deficiencies so Common?

There are many reasons why you might be deficient in one or more nutrients.

  • Soils are becoming more and more depleted of some nutrients with successive harvests. This is worsened when floods occur due to climate change, washing minerals from the soil. Only certain nutrients are added to traditional fertilisers, with many trace elements not replaced into the soil. Selenium, important for heart health, immunity and thyroid function, is one mineral often lacking in soil. One study found almost half of all beef cattle were deficient in selenium. This is because the grass forming their food was unable to take up enough selenium from the soil.
  • Many crops nowadays are developed to grow faster for higher yields. It’s believed this can lead to fewer nutrients in the resulting plants as they have less time to make or take up nutrients. It’s difficult to measure relative nutrient values in food over the years because nutrition in crops naturally varies with climate, growth conditions, and variety. However, one study back in 2004 found significant declines in calcium, iron, and vitamins C and B2 in US crops between 1950 and 1999 2. The researchers weren’t able to check for other minerals like magnesium, zinc or vitamin E, as they weren’t measured decades ago. In other words, we don’t really know what is happening to our food crops.
  • With modern food processing techniques and long food storage times, there are plenty of opportunities for nutrients to become further depleted.
  • Stressful lifestyles mean certain organs such as your stress glands need to work harder. This increases the amount of nutrients they require, including vitamin C and B vitamins. Who can honestly say they aren’t affected by stress nowadays? So, you may need certain nutrients in higher quantities than your ancestors.
  • Modern life is not kind to the gut, either. Stress, medications and processed foods all impair your gut’s ability to efficiently absorb nutrients from your food.

 

It’s worth mentioning that when the researchers looked at the nutrient levels in those preschool children and women, on average the samples examined dated from 2013. So it’s likely the percentages of people deficient in one or more nutrients will have increased, with ongoing soil nutrient depletion and increasing availability of processed foods.

How to Test for Nutrient Deficiencies

blood test for nutrient deficiency

While it’s possible to measure some nutrients by looking at how much are in your blood, this doesn’t always reflect what’s available to your body. This is because your body will keep your blood nutrient levels constant at the expense of other tissues. Therefore, it can be better to look at substances in your blood or urine known as markers. These give clues about your body’s metabolic processes and the biochemical pathways underpinning essential body processes which aren’t working as they should. In turn, these will indicate if your body is lacking in any nutrients which are impacting how well your body is functioning.

We will never assume all is well even if your blood nutrient levels look OK. Functional medicine practitioners are skilled at detective work and will use specialist tests to determine your personal requirements for not only essential vitamins and minerals but also other important food compounds like essential fats, antioxidants, amino acids and phytochemicals. We’ll carefully analyse your test results to see what is really happening inside your body.

Start on the pathway to optimal nutrient status and better health by booking an appointment today.

References

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Do you need personalised support for your nutrient deficiency? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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