Written by Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1
The busy American lifestyle can leave us scrambling for food, eating out and indulging in quick meals. Unfortunately, this can leave us missing out on key vitamins and nutrients due to the sacrifice of time. Luckily for us, the CDC collected a lot of information and has published their findings as recently as 2012 exposing where we are missing out the most. There are 5 main vitamins and minerals that we seem to be missing out on the most. In this article we’ll unveil the top 5 vitamins and minerals that are commonly undernourished in the American diet. Let’s take a look at the most common nutritional deficiencies in our diet, explain what they are, why we need it, and where we can find it in our diet.
5) Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, or otherwise known as Cobalamin, is a critical, water soluble (meaning it dissolves in water) coenzyme in the body that assists with different types of chemical reactions. To be more specific, B12 helps convert food into energy, which is why the vitamin B’s have gained a lot of attention lately, and also assist in the body’s ability to utilize fat and protein. In addition, they not only help the nervous system function properly, but are needed for healthy skin, eyes, hair and liver function. Lastly and more specifically, Vitamin B12 is especially important in the production DNA and RNA (your genetic makeup) as well as the immune system. Luckily, you can find this important vitamin in animal foods such as fish, meat, poultry or eggs. For vegetarians, fortified cereal is a particular valuable source of B12.
Nearly 2% of American’s are missing out on this crucial vitamin on a daily basis. Interestingly enough, non-Hispanic whites have the lowest vitamin B12 status and the chances of being deficient in B12 increases over the age of 40.
4) Vitamin C
Vitamin C, or Ascorbic Acid, is another water-soluble vitamin. It has an impressive resume as it assists with healing wounds, makes skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and can even repair bones and teeth. It serves as an antioxidant to assist with the immune system and because of its ability to combat free radicals, there is some speculation that it can contribute to a healthier aging process, battling conditions such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. The most abundant sources of Vitamin C include orange juice, grapefruit juice, peaches, sweet red peppers and papayas.
Around 6% of America’s population is missing out on this important vitamin. Again, non-Hispanic whites, particularly males, are at greater risk of being deficient than young females.
Iron is actually an essential mineral that is vital for human life. It is found in the red blood cells and carries oxygen-rich blood to every cell in the body. Due to this important function, if you are deficient in it, you may experience the familiar symptoms of weakness and fatigue. Pregnant women, younger women during their reproductive years and children tend to be at the highest risk for being deficient. Unlike the previous two water soluble vitamins, you can actually have too much of iron. In fact, it can lead to a condition called hemochromatosis which can lead to diabetes or liver damage. However, most people tend to be undernourished with this essential mineral. In order to combat this leading nutritional deficiency in the world, make sure you are in taking enough. You will find iron in animal foods such as red meat, fish and poultry. Nonheme iron is found in plant foods such as lentils and beans. While heme iron is absorbed better than Nonheme iron, plant based foods can still be very effective.
Around 6.7% of Americans are not in taking enough iron in on a daily basis. If you are a male, you are probably getting enough of this crucial essential mineral. While you are a child or a woman of childbearing age, it is important to consult with your physician to ensure you are meeting the daily value.
2) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the first fat soluble vitamin being introduced on this leaderboard today, meaning you can actually have too much of it and therefore would be bad for your health. While vitamin D is important for many body functions, it is probably best known for working with calcium in your body to help build and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D can also help regulate your immune system and cells. You can store Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight or via dietary sources such as milk, fatty fishes, mushrooms, egg yolks and liver.
A stunning 8% of American’s do not acquire enough Vitamin D on a daily basis. An interesting speculation is the transition of the American culture from an outdoor, active society to one dominated by technologies and the majority of their time spent inside. Concentrations are typically lower as we age (meaning we’re more likely to be deficient as we get older). This vitamin seems to be heavily influenced by ethnicity and culture, meaning Non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans had the lowest serum levels when assessed.
1) Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, or Pyridoxine, is no different than Vitamin B12 in the sense that it too is water soluble and assists with energy levels. However, it differs from Vitamin B12 by its specific function to make neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are basically chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another. Because of its assistance to neurotransmitters, it can help influence your mood and sleep cycle per the regulation of your hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. The most abundant dietary sources of Vitamin B6 are meats, whole grains, vegetables and nuts.
The leading nutritional deficiency in the US population belongs to this vitamin, as nearly 10.5% of peopledo not intake enough B6 on a day to day basis. Older, Non-Hispanic Whites show a slight increase in probability to be deficient in this vitamin compared to others, although not significant. Age is most likely the most significant factor here as the older you get, the more likely you are to be deficient in this vitamin.
Understand that while the American diet has come a long way over the years to include vitamins and minerals in everyday meals and foods, these key vitamins and nutrients still seem to be slipping through the cracks of our daily intake. The reality is that most American’s are getting everything they need in their day as long as they intake a well-balanced, rounded diet. This lends towards less confidence that you truly need a vitamin each and every day. However, it can cover all of the vitamins needed in one simple swallow and ensure the avoidance of nutritional deficiencies.
Take Home Point
The take home point would be to plan your food intake ahead as best as possible, take vitamins as needed, and to be aware that although we’re getting the majority of the nutrition that we need, these vitamins listed, including iron, still seem to be lacking in everyone’s diet on a day to day basis. Feel free to explore https://www.choosemyplate.gov for more information.
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