Three Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies You May Be at Risk for: Symptoms

Dr. Dawn Harper on Signs of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D Deficiency

Recent NHS figures have brought to light a shocking revelation: more than 800,000 patients were admitted to hospital with malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies in 2022, highlighting a growing health and diet crisis in England and Wales.

The comprehensive study shed light on the growing problem of nutrition-related hospital admissions, which have increased more than 39 percent over the past decade.

Among them, deficiencies of three crucial nutrients (iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D) stand out due to their serious impact on health and well-being.

Contrary to what might be assumed, these deficiencies are not the result of an increase in meat- and dairy-free diets, but rather coincide with a marked increase in food insecurity.

Recent surveys by the Food Foundation reveal a bleak picture of hunger and skipped meals: 5.9 percent of adults went an entire day without eating due to budget constraints, 15 percent skipped meals, and 21 percent percent of households with children experienced food insecurity.

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Cold hands and feet can be a sign of iron deficiency (Image: GETTY)

So what are the signs of deficiency and what can we do to avoid low intake of these nutrients in our diet and avoid becoming part of this silent epidemic?


There has been an overall 5 percent reduction in iron intake over the past 20 years. Over the past decade, adolescents failing to meet the lowest recommended nutritional intake (LRNI) fell from 32 percent to 24 percent and the number of women failing to meet the LRNI for iron increased from 27 percent to 25 percent, according to the survey. .

Iron is important for making hemoglobin, a protein contained in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. If you don’t have enough iron, you won’t be able to make enough healthy red blood cells and this can lead to a condition called anemia.

Iron plays a role in the development and efficiency of the immune system. Having adequate iron in your diet helps ensure the proliferation and maturation of immune cells, such as lymphocytes, which are necessary to help fight infections. A study that included more than 1,400 people found that iron deficiency was an independent predictor of respiratory tract infections such as the common cold and that postoperative infections, including urinary tract infections, were more common among people with low iron levels. iron.

Signs of deficiency

Cracked lips, thinning hair, white spots on nails, split and brittle nails, recurrent mouth ulcers, sore tongue, cold hands and feet, dizziness, tiredness, recurrent colds during the winter months.

iron sources

Liver, kidney, meat, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, eggs, whole grains such as brown rice, and most dark leafy green vegetables.

Expert verdict

Nutritionist Rob Hobson said: “Lack of iron is one of the most common mineral deficiencies. The most absorbable form is heme iron, which is found in meats and seafood and is incorporated into proteins. Plants provide iron in a non-heme form whose absorption is enhanced by vitamin C. The recommended intake of iron in the EU is 14 mg per day. Try Healthpan’s Ironcare (120 tablets £7.95), a stomach-friendly 14mg daily dose that also has the added benefits of B vitamins, copper and vitamin C to help with absorption. “Women with heavy periods or who feel tired all the time may benefit from a blood test to see if they need an iron supplement.”

Woman with mouth ulcer

Mouth ulcers may be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency (Image: GETTY)

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK and particularly during the winter months when exposure to adequate sunlight is limited. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed that around one in six adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Some population groups are more at risk than others, such as pregnant and lactating women, children under five years old, people over 65 years old, and people with darker skin tones, such as Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, and African Americans. South of Asia.

Current recommendations advise that everyone consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms from October to March to help avoid deficiency and maintain healthy bones and muscles. Vitamin D is available in different forms, such as drops, sprays or capsules and tablets (e.g. Healthspan Vitamin D3, 10 mcg, 240 tablets £9.95).

Lack of vitamin D is associated with reduced bone mineralization and bone deformity or thinning diseases, such as rickets in children and osteopenia and osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium into bones and keeping them strong. This is especially important for children and adolescents, since during this age they are laying the foundation for their bone density.

Signs of deficiency

Rickets (children), bone pain, muscle pain, osteomalacia (softening of bones in adults), increased sensitivity to pain, tingling sensations in hands and feet, muscle cramps, depression.

Sources of vitamin D

The richest dietary source of vitamin D3 is oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines). Some is also found in eggs, dairy products, meat, and fortified foods. Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light provide small amounts of vitamin D2.

Expert verdict

Rob said: “Low vitamin D levels are common in the UK during the winter months so I would always recommend taking a supplement. There are some foods you can include in your diet to increase your intake, but they are limited. Try to include a daily serving of enriched mushrooms that can be added to all types of dishes (breakfast with eggs is a good option) and eat two servings of oily fish every week.”

B12 vitamin

According to figures from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, about 6 percent of adults have blood serum levels low enough to indicate a deficiency. Those at particular risk of deficiency include vegans and vegetarians because natural food sources are limited to foods of animal origin, so it is recommended to supplement your diet. An example of this is Viridian B12 Liquid, 50ml, 100 Percent Fermented Active Ingredients £7.95

This essential vitamin is used in the conversion of food into energy and is needed by the body to produce healthy red blood cells and prevents a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia.

It also helps keep the nervous system healthy thanks to its role in maintaining the nerve covering called myelin sheath. Evidence from animal and human studies shows that B12 also has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, and human intervention studies have reported beneficial effects of improved B12 status or B12 therapy in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, myalgic encephalomyelitis and autism.

Signs of deficiency

Brain fog, memory problems, cognitive impairment, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue, anemia, muscle weakness, mood swings, tingling sensations in hands and feet. Mouth ulcers, altered vision, sore red tongue.

Sources include

Meat, fish, seafood, poultry, liver, milk, eggs, cheese, yeast extract (marmite), fortified breakfast cereals, and some plant-based dairy alternatives.

Expert verdict

Rob Hobson said: “Lack of vitamin B12 in the diet is a key concern for those avoiding animal foods, so I would always recommend taking a supplement or looking for fortified foods to include in the diet. The recommended intake of iron in the EU is 1.5 mg per day. “People over 65 may also want to monitor their B12 levels, especially if they experience symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, mood swings, or trouble remembering.”

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