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Nutritional deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies


A balanced diet consists of various macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamins and minerals comprise the micronutrient portion of the meal. Nutritional deficiency is a broad term used to describe reduced levels of any nutrient than that required to meet bodily needs. 

Nutritional deficiencies can manifest in many ways depending on which nutrient is deficient. Common symptoms may include weight loss, hair loss, poor growth, swollen belly, higher susceptibility to infections, reduced wound healing, fatigue, weakness.

Various risk factors that can increase the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies include poor intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, restrictive diets, smoking, pregnancy along with some medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and eating disorders.

Eating a well balanced and wholesome diet is the best way to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Treatment options include a diet rich in the deficient nutrient along with dietary supplements.

Key Facts

Usually seen in
  • Children under the age of 5 years and adults above the age of 60 years.
Gender affected
  • Both men and women but more common in women
Necessary health tests/imaging
  • Correcting the deficiency: Supplementation
  • Treatment of associated symptoms: Transfusion, Vitrectomy & Bone surgery
Specialists to consult
  • General physician
  • Internal medicine specialist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Pediatrician

Symptoms Of Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutrients are the principal source of energy. They are also involved in several bodily functions like healing and repairing wounds, normal vision, growth and development of bones, keeping nerve cells healthy amongst other functions.

In most of the cases, symptoms start to develop 8 to 12 weeks after inadequate intake of nutrients. In some cases, symptoms are difficult to be noticed because symptoms may not occur for several months or years. 

Symptoms can be non-specific, often resembling other medical conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct a medical examination for confirmation. Some generic signs and symptoms may include: 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Body fat wasting
  • Poor growth of bones
  • Swollen belly
  • Higher susceptibility to infections
  • Reduced wound healing
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Growth retardation
  • Hair loss
  • Dryness in the lips, skin, and nails
  • Reduced sensitivity to light
  • Vision loss
  • Dry eyes
  • Loss of teeth

Causes Of Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can develop due to the following reasons:

1. Poor quality or quantity of food consumed

Every nutrient has a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) that refers to the amount in which the nutrient has to be taken to meet the body.

The continuous consumption of reduced nutritional quantity can lead to nutritional deficiency. 

What should your kids eat?

2. Increased dietary requirements

The presence of several conditions increases the amount of RDA of certain nutrients. It can cause nutritional deficiencies, if the supply is not increased. 

  • Pregnancy

  • Breastfeeding

  • Cancer 

3. Decreased gastrointestinal digestion and absorption

Every nutrient has to be absorbed into the bloodstream to produce its action. Individuals taking a balanced diet having all the nutrients within RDA can also suffer from nutritional deficiencies. This can happen in case of decreased absorption. 

4. Increased excretion

Increased excretion of nutrients in some conditions like kidney diseases can also lead to nutritional deficiencies. 

Types Of Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies can be of following types:

1. Macronutrient deficiency

Macronutrients are required in larger quantities. They basically provide energy and help in building muscle mass. The common examples are fat, protein and carbohydrate. The deficiencies are discussed as follows:

  • Protein-energy malnutrition: It is a condition that is developed as a result of low dietary intake of protein.
    As per some studies, around one-third of the children suffer from protein deprivation. Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are the two most clinical outcomes of protein deprivation that are seen in children. 

    Here are signs that show you are not taking enough protein in your diet.

  • Carbohydrate deficiency: The body requires a continuous supply of energy/glucose. Gross carbohydrate deficiency can lead to dip in energy levels along with negatively affecting various physiological functions of the body.

  • Fats/Essential fatty acids deficiency: Essential fatty acids (EFA) are the fats that can not be produced by the body. There are two families of EFA, omega-3 and omega-6. They help regulate cholesterol and also play important functional roles in sustaining nerve impulse transmission, memory storage, and tissue structure.

    The reduced dietary intake is associated with diminished growth in infants and children. The other clinical signs of this deficiency include a dry scaly rash, increased susceptibility to infection, and poor wound healing.

    Explore our widest range of fatty acids supplements.

2. Micronutrient deficiency

Vitamin and mineral are the micronutrients. They are required in very small amounts. Their deficiencies are usually associated with chronic disorders. 

The several commonly observed micronutrient deficiencies include:

  • Vitamin deficiencies: The common deficiencies of this category include Vitamin A, Vitamin B 12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K deficiency.

  • Calcium deficiency: The total serum calcium levels below 8.8 mg/dL is considered as calcium deficiency. The primary symptoms include rough hair, brittle nails, dry skin, itching, cataracts (clouding of eye lens), and poor quality of teeth.

  • Zinc deficiency: Zinc deficiency refers to the low levels of zinc (less than 0.66 to 1.10 mcg/ml) in the body. People with zinc deficiency may experience skin rashes, hair loss, diarrhea, frequent cold and infections, and weight loss after months of having low levels of zinc.

  • Iron deficiency: It is the most prevalent deficiency that is usually seen in young children and premenopausal women. As iron is the main contributor of hemoglobin, its deficiency leads to iron deficiency anemia

  • Iodine deficiency: Iodine deficiency is observed when the body stores of iodine starts to deplete to 10-20 micrograms. Its deficiency is associated with hypothyroidism which can further even lead to goiter.  

  • Selenium deficiency: 80-120 μg/l of selenium is regarded as deficiency as it is a trace mineral. It is known to affect the production of sperms and thyroid function. The deficiency is linked with cardiovascular diseases and mood swings. 

  • Potassium deficiency: The deficiency of potassium is rarely observed and is usually seen as a result of medications or sustained vomiting or diarrhea. 

  • Fluoride deficiency: Fluoride is required for the normal growth and development of teeth and bones. Its deficiency is associated with tooth decay and improper bone growth.

Did you know?
Nutrient deficiencies mostly affect children under 5 years of age. Here are some expert tips that help prevent nutritional deficiency in your child.
Did you know?

Risk Factors For Nutritional Deficiencies

The following factors increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies: 

1. Gastrointestinal disorders

Individuals with certain medical conditions especially of the digestive system are more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies. This is due to the impaired absorption of the nutrients. Such conditions include:

Here are 7 healthy food substitutes for people with lactose intolerance.

2. Imbalanced, restrictive, or low-nutrients diets

We are what we eat. Restrictive diets can increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies. Strict vegan and plant based diets have also shown a poor absorption of micronutrients such as zinc and iron, leading to their deficiency. 

3. Certain Medications

The use of certain medication could also increase the risk of specific nutrient deficiencies. This can be attributed by reducing its absorption or increasing its excretion. The class of medications that can cause nutritional deficiencies are:

  • Antacids

  • Antihistamines

  • Anticancer

  • Anticoagulants

4. Pregnancy and lactation

Pregnant and lactating women increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies due to increase in demand. More than 40% of children and pregnant women suffer from anemia as a result of nutritional deficiencies like that of iron.

5. Age

Children and older people are prone to nutritional deficiencies due to increased nutritional requirements or association with age related health conditions.

Looking for some nutritional supplements for your kids?

6. Chronic alcoholism 

The chronic alcoholism is associated with a lower level of have all been associated with chronic alcoholism. Alcohol intake is also associated with low serum magnesium, selenium and zinc levels.

7. Obesity

Obese individuals have a higher incidence of micronutrient deficiency. The prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in obese individuals ranges from 80–90%.

Explore our exclusive range of weight management supplements.

Diagnosis Of Nutritional Deficiencies

1. Medical history and physical examination

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, and any relevant factors such as your diet and lifestyle. They will also perform a physical examination to check for signs associated with deficiency.

2. Blood tests

Depending upon the symptoms, any one or the combination of these blood tests are recommended. These tests assess the quantity of the mentioned nutrient in the blood. 

3. Imaging tests

  • Bone X-rays : The radiography of bones is mostly recommended in children for the evaluation of their growth as a result of nutritional deficiencies. 

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): It can be used to examine the brain and spinal cord, particularly if symptoms like numbness, tingling, or balance problems. It can help identify structural changes that might be related to vitamin deficiencies.

  • Endoscopy: It involves the use of a flexible tube to directly view and examine internal structures. It may be done to detect any underlying conditions which may be a cause or effect of nutritional deficiencies.

  • Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan: This test helps in measuring bone mineral density in patients with chronic Vitamin D deficiency.

  • Dermoscopy: This procedure involves examination of the skin lesions in case of any nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin C affecting the skin.

Looking for a trusted lab to get your tests done? Get tested with Tata 1mg labs to offer accurate and on-time results.

Celebs affected

Vidya Balan
Bollywood celebrity, Vidya Balan had suffered from anemia as a result of iron deficiency. She talked about “dates” as an excellent source of iron through her social media handle.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Famous American actress and businesswoman once had Vitamin D deficiency. She managed her condition by consuming Vitamin D3 supplements and fish oil.

Prevention Of Nutritional Deficiencies


The best way to prevent nutritional deficiencies is to have a balanced diet that contains an adequate amount of macronutrients and micronutrients. 

1. Consume  a well-balanced diet

What to eat

  • Carbohydrates should constitute 50-60% of a meal. The most common healthy sources of carbohydrate are whole-grain, rice, cereals and legumes

  • 10-20% should come from protein sources such as poultry, eggs, sea foods, soybeans, lean meat

  • Add some good source of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fishes

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables such as guava, strawberry, papaya, kiwi, spinach, carrots, and bell peppers are a very good source of micronutrients. Eat at least one fruit a day. 

  • A healthy gut microbiome can support the proper absorption of nutrients. Include fiber-rich foods in your diet. 

  • Also, make sure to include probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are good bacteria that are able to synthesize B‐group vitamins. 

What to avoid/limit

Healthy eating is all about balance. The nutrient-poor and calorie dense food satisfies hunger but keeps the body deprived of nutrients. Such foods should be avoided or limited. The examples include:

  • Highly processed and packaged foods such as chips, ketchups, chocolates, and ready to eat food items

  • Sweetened drinks such as soda, soft drinks, flavored milks, sports drinks, flavored water with sugar, and pre packaged juices

  • Processed meats such as sausages, and hot dogs


Listen to our experts discuss on how you can get complete nutrition from healthy eating habits.

2. Treat any underlying medical conditions 

People with underlying health conditions such as celiac disease and cystic fibrosis affect the absorption of nutrients. Therefore treating the underlying condition may help in maintaining the optimum level of nutrients. 


3. Avoid restrictive diets

Fad diets generally lead to nutrient deprivation. Avoiding restrictive diets may help prevent most nutritional deficiency. 

4. Do not shy away from the sun 

Approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure daily to the face, arms, hands, and legs without sunscreen leads to sufficient Vitamin D synthesis and optimizes many bodily functions.

5. Encourage breastfeeding of infants

Breast milk serves as an excellent source of nutrients such as Vitamin A and proteins, especially during the initial six months of life. 

It is seen that children who get exclusively breast milk for the first 6 months have lesser chances of developing Vitamin A deficiency later in life. They are also less likely to suffer from protein deficiencies. 

6. Maintain environmental sanitation 

The chances of some nutritional deficiencies increase in the presence of certain diseases such as respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, diarrhea, and worm infestations. Proper sanitation of the living environment helps in reducing the prevalence of these diseases. 

Here are 5 simple tips to maintain hygiene at the workplace.

7. Ensure proper vaccination

Certain vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles serve as a precipitating factor for deficiencies like those of Vitamin A. Immunization helps in the elimination of such factors and may help in preventing this deficiency. 

Did you know?

Adults also need vaccination just like kids. Here is a complete guide on the types of adult vaccines, why you need adult vaccines, and when you should get them.

Did you know?

Specialist To Visit 


Doctors that can help you diagnose and treat nutritional deficiencies include: 

  • General physician
  • Internal medicine specialist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Pediatrician (in case of children)

A general physician will examine your symptoms and initiate treatment.

In case of severe cases, they may refer you to an Internal Medicine specialist who provides comprehensive care for adult patients, managing complex cases and addressing underlying health conditions.

Gastroenterologists can also be consulted to treat the cases where nutritional deficiency is developed as a result of malabsorption. 

Nutritionists can help in optimizing the diet that helps in fulfilling the deficiencies. 

You can consult a pediatrician in case of children.

Seek guidance from our trusted team of doctors.

Treatment Of Nutritional Deficiencies

The primary treatment approach is to correct the deficiency through the diet. The treatment usually depends upon the duration and severity of symptoms. 

Supplements that are usually taken orally are given.  Intravenous supplements are given in case of serious symptoms. The treatment options include:

1. Correcting the deficiency

The deficiency is corrected through supplementation. The common ones are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B12, B9, and B6
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Potassium
  • Fluoride


Looking for vitamin supplements. Shop by category.

3. Treatment of associated symptoms

Prolonged nutritional deficiencies may require other treatment options like:

  • Transfusion: The severe deficiency of Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, and iron can also cause anemia. Such people may require blood transfusion.

  • Vitrectomy: It is performed in individuals having severe eye problems such as dry eyes as a result of prolonged Vitamin C deficiency.  During the surgery, vitreous  fluid (a gel-like substance that fills the space within the eye) is replaced with another solution. 

  • Bone surgery: The excessive deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D for a long period of time can cause bone disease. Such children may require surgery, if symptoms do not resolve with supplements.

Home-care For Nutritional Deficiencies


Indian kitchens are loaded with superfoods that possess a vast nutritional density. Try to include these in the diet. These include:


  1. Mushrooms: Mushrooms possess a very impressive range of nutrients. It is a rich source of Vitamin D. It also contains Vitamin B complexes, proteins and minerals such as selenium, potassium, phosphorus and iron together along with dietary fiber. 


  1. Pistachios (pista): Pistachios contain proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, healthy fats, minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese and zinc. It is a storehouse of Vitamins like A, C, E, K, B-complex Vitamins. 


  1. Raisins (kishmish): The nutritional profile of raisins is rather enviable considering they essentially contain no fats. They have a healthy dose of calories, carbohydrates and even some amount of proteins. The nutrients found in raisins consist of iron, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus and calcium, Vitamin B along with small quantities of folate, Vitamin C and Vitamin K.


  1. Apple: Apples are endowed with a very impressive nutritional profile. Enriched with all the major kinds of Vitamins such as Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C, E, K, it also houses essential minerals like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and iron.


  1. Quinoa: Quinoa has emerged as a super grain over the last couple of years. It is a protein-packed grain containing every amino acid. It is also a rich source of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and calcium. It is also rich in Vitamins B1, B3, B6 and E.

    Indian food is most popular for its diversity. Listen to our expert discuss how you can maximize your nutrition from traditional Indian diet.
    Click to watch

Complications Of Nutritional Deficiencies

The prolonged nutritional deficiencies can lead to several compilation such as:

Living With Nutritional Deficiencies


Nutritional deficiencies mostly resolve with conscious eating and dietary supplements. The following measures might help in faster recovery:

1. Get diagnosed

Visit a healthcare professional to confirm the deficiency and determine the severity. They may recommend further tests to identify the underlying cause of the deficiency.

2. Educate yourself

Learn about the deficiency, its causes, symptoms, and management options. This knowledge   will empower you to make informed decisions about your health and work effectively with your healthcare professional.

3. Do not self medicate

It is advised to consult health care professionals before starting supplements. The doctor will prescribe the right dose as per your need. Nutrients can interact with other medications which a doctor may help you to find and fix. 

4. Be aware of toxicity

Consuming a large amount of supplements over a short period of time can cause toxicity. The total intake, from combined dietary and supplemental sources, should not exceed as per the recommended amount. 

Some common signs and symptoms of toxicity include:

5. Avoid overcooking

It is advised to eat fruits and vegetables raw or very lightly cooked for the maximum effect. It is because some vitamins and minerals are sensitive to heat and overcooking can degrade it.

6. Abstain from smoking

Smoking serves as a trigger for some nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin C. It is advised to completely avoid smoking or to limit it. Individuals who smoke may require higher amounts of supplements. 

Want to quit smoking? Explore our range of smoking cessation products. 

7. Keep yourself hydrated

Some supplements may increase urination. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated to compensate for the water loss. 

8. Go for regular check-ups

Schedule regular appointments with your doctor to monitor your nutrient levels and overall health. They can guide you on necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

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