Micronutrients are the essential vitamins and minerals required by any living being, it supplements the major nutrients like protein, carbohydrate and fat and helps in regulating mental and physical wellbeing of any living organism. The essential vitamins are Vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K.

What is Vitamin Deficiency?

Vitamins deficiency is condition of long-term lack of vitamins in human body. This condition is often neglected unless the condition becomes severe. However, even the mild deficiency can disrupt several essential body functions. This phenomenon is very common across the world. 

It affects people from different age groups and the group of individuals who are very susceptible to this condition are pregnant and lactating women and young children. There are two types of vitamin deficiency.

Types of Vitamin Deficiency

  • Primary: Caused by long term inadequate intake of nutrients
  • Secondary: Caused by malabsorption

The secondary deficiency is caused by the presence of underlying health condition which disrupts the normal process of vitamins absorption.

Different vitamins have different functionality and its deficient affects human body differently. The causes, symptoms, its associated health risk and diseases and their remedies for essential vitamins like Vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K are illustrated below

Vitamins Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Health Risks, Remedies and Adequate Intakes

Vitamin A:

  • Causes: Vitamin A is fat-soluble vitamin and its deficiency can be caused by inadequate intake, malabsorption and existing health condition like liver disorders.
  • Symptoms:  Lack of photoreceptors pigment rhodopsin, dry eyes, conjunctiva, frequent infections, spot in eyeballs, corneal erosion & ulceration, dry skin, thickened skin and tongue.
  • Associated Health Risk: Night blindness, xerophthalmia, keratomalacia, impaired immunity, keratinisation of gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary tracts.
  • Remedies: Vitamin A deficiency can be avoided, or its affects can be reverted with Vitamin A rich foods (Liver, dairy, fish, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, dairy products, broccoli) and medical supplements in case of severe deficiency.
  • Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 700-900 mcg

Vitamin B

  • Causes: Unlike Vitamin A, Vitamin B is soluble in water and its deficiency can be caused by inadequate intake, excessive urinary discharge and malabsorption due to atrophic gastritis and diseases that affects small intestines.
  • Symptoms: Pale yellow skin, a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, pins and needles, disturbed vision, irritability, fatigue, noticeable heartbeats, loss of weight and appetite, faintness, breathlessness, headache, lack of energy.
  • Associated Health Risk: Palpitations, Tinnitus, Paranesthesia, Depressions, Dementia, Glossitis.
  • Remedies: Vitamin B deficiency can be avoided, or its affects can be reverted with Vitamin B rich foods (Whole grain, meat pork, beef, organ meat, fish, salmon, seafood, egg, dairy and dairy products, green leafy vegetables, carrots, beans, lentils, soybean, tofu, fruit juice, orange, dried tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, avocado ) and medical supplements in case of severe deficiency.
  • Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): The daily intake of Vitamin B is not available, but its individual elements detail is provided in Table 1.

Table 1

Vitamin B Adequate Intake for an Adult
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1.1-1.2 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1.1-1.3 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 14-16 mg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 5 mg
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 1.3 mg
Vitamin B7 (Biotin) 30 mcg
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 400 mg
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) 2.4 mcg

Vitamin C

  • Causes: Vitamin C is also known as Ascorbic Acid which is water soluble. The major cause of Vitamin C deficiency is poor intake, alcoholism and smoking, anorexia, mental illness and malabsorption due to preexisting small intestine disorders.
  • Symptoms: Nose & Gum bleeding, tooth loss, pain in muscles, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, rashes or red spots, bruising, coiled hair, irritability, muscle weakness, weight loss
  • Associated Health Risk: Scurvy, malaise, gingivitis, petechiae, rash, internal bleeding, impaired wound healing, impaired bone growth in children.
  • Remedies: Vitamin C deficiency can be prevented by Vitamin C rich diet that includes citrus fruits, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage, tomato juice, broccoli, and medical supplements in case of severe deficiency.
  • Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 75-90 mg

Vitamin D

  • Causes: Vitamin D is commonly known as Ergocalciferol and this vitamin is soluble in fat. The major cause of its deficiency is inadequate sunlight, poor diet, inefficient production in the skin and malabsorption due preexisting health conditions like gastrointestinal, renal and liver disorders.
  • Symptoms: Most people don’t have any symptoms in mild deficiency while it may lead to thin, brittle or misshapen bones in severe deficiency.
  • Associated Health Risk: Cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, severe asthma in children, it also has proven successful for the treatment of hypertension, glucose intolerant, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
  • Remedies: Hypovitaminosis D can be prevented by adequate exposure to sunlight, vitamin D rich food that includes Salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oil, milk, cheese and medical supplements when immediate attention is required.
  • Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 600-800 IU

Vitamin E

  • Causes: Vitamin E is also known as Tocopherol which is soluble in fat and its deficiency can be caused by inadequate intake, poor diet and malabsorption due presence of health condition like chronic pancreatitis, cholestasis, cystic fibrosis, gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Symptoms: Nerve and muscle damage, loss of body movement control, muscle weakness, vision problems and weakened immunity system.
  • Associated Health Risk: Haemolytic anaemia in which red blood cells rupture, Vitamin E supplements are found to be helpful in preventing, cancer, heart disease, eye disorders like cataracts and mental disorders.
  • Remedies: Hypovitaminosis D can be prevented by adequate intake of vitamin E rich diet like sunflower seeds, wheat germs, nuts, spinach, broccoli and supplements in case of severe deficiency.
  • Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 15 mg

Vitamin K

  • Causes: Like other vitamins, Vitamin K is fat soluble, and the major cause of its deficiencies are inadequate diet, inadequate production in intestine, alcoholism, drug abuse and malabsorption due to preexisting health condition like gastrointestinal disorders, liver disorders, cancer
  • Symptoms: Easy bruising, Oozing from nose or gums, excessive bleeding from wounds, punctures, and injection or surgical sites, heavy menstrual periods, bleeding from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, blood in the urine and/or stool.
  • Associated Health Risk: Cardiovascular disease (CVD), osteoporosis, diabetes, renal disorders, cystic fibrosis, gastrointestinal disorders, blocked bile duct.
  • Remedies: Vitamin K deficiency can be prevented by consuming Vitamin K rich diet that includes Leafy veggies, Fish, liver, meat, eggs, soybean, pumpkin, brussels sprout, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and medical supplements in case of severe deficiency.
  • Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 90-120 mcg

Vitamin deficiency is very common across the globe. Its symptoms are not significant in mild deficiency however, it often causes serious health condition in case of severe deficiency. Hypovitaminosis can be prevented by consuming adequate intake of vitamin rich diet and supplements in case of immediate attention required. The key to healthy life lies in balanced and healthy foods.