Great Smokies Medical Center of Asheville

Nutrient Deficiencies Can Result in Serious Health Problems

A tragic reminder of the consequences of nutrient deficiencies occurred in November 2003, when the deaths of three Israeli infants were linked to the use of a Kosher soy-based infant formula manufactured in Germany that was sold as Remedia. Fourteen more infants were treated for problems associated with using the infant formula. Remedia was not commercially marketed in the United States, though some may have been imported via mail order. Laboratory analysis revealed that the formula did not contain any Vitamin B1, thiamin, even though the label stated it did. Thiamine deficiency results in a condition known as beriberi which causes a variety of cardiac and neurological problems and, if untreated, death.

While a dramatic example of the effects of nutrient deficiencies, it brings to mind the more subtle but very significant roles that chronic nutrient deficiencies can cause throughout a lifetime.

Nutrient deficiencies can be caused by food supply problems from homelessness, poverty, and isolation, in addition to some psychiatric disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, paranoia, and depression. Mechanical problems such as ill-fitting dentures and poor dental health also contribute to nutrient deficiency, as can laxative abuse and lack of sunshine. Side effects of prescription drugs include their ability to deplete essential nutrients, as does consumption of alcohol and a diet rich in soy. Even when an adequate diet is eaten, nutrients may not be absorbed due to inadequate production of hydrochloric acid or digestive enzymes, and inflammatory bowel disease.

That being said, the number one cause of nutrient deficiencies in the United States is eating processed and junk food, fast food, food high in sugar, and “bad” fat. We don’t need box cutters to undermine our nation. We’ve got spoons and forks!

Nutrient deficiencies usually don’t directly result in death, but more often undermine health in ways not easily apparent. The afflicted person does not feel or function well and is often clueless as to why. A physician trained in nutritional medicine can be alerted to clinical signs and symptoms that suggest nutrient deficiency. When deficiencies are treated and the body’s functions are supported, some prescription drug use can be decreased or even prevented altogether.

Junk food eaters beware: Before you improve your diet, be aware that if too many people decide to eat a nutritionally sound diet, disease incidence would decrease and our health care system could collapse due to fewer people seeking healthcare.

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