Most people know about major food deficiencies but only few know about vitamin deficiencies. Hence, this article will enlighten you, if you are in this category .Stay tuned!
Vitamins are essential organic compounds that your body needs to function properly. They are required in small amounts, but their absence or deficiency can cause significant health problems.
There are two main categories of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12). These vitamins are easily absorbed by the body and are not stored in large amounts, so they need to be replenished regularly through diet or supplementation.
On the other hand, are the fat-soluble vitamins. They include vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are absorbed and stored in the body’s fat cells. Hence, excess amounts can accumulate and cause toxicity. Therefore, it is important to consume them in moderation and not to exceed the recommended daily intake.
What are Vitamin deficiencies?
Vitamin deficiencies occur when the body does not get enough of a specific vitamin it needs to function properly. There are 13 essential vitamins that your body needs to maintain health and wellness, and each has its own set of functions.
Most common Deficiencies :
1.Vitamin D: This vitamin is essential for bone health, and deficiencies are common. Especially, in people who live in northern latitudes with less exposure to sunlight. It’s deficiency, manifests as rickets in children characterized by weak and soft bones. Whereas in adults, what we find is osteomalacia .These adults ,are more prone to fractures.
2.Vitamin B12: This is important for maintaining healthy nerves and blood cells. So, its deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and neurological problems.
3.Vitamin C: This vitamin is important for immune function and wound healing. Its deficiency causes scurvy, a disease characterized by bleeding gums. It also causes skin rashes.
4.Vitamin A: This one is important for vision, immune function, and skin health. If it is deficient, in the body, you can develop night blindness, dry eyes, and skin problems.
5.Vitamin E: This vitamin supports skin health and immune function.When it is deficient, you may experience muscle weakness and vision problems.
6.Vitamin K: This vitamin is important for blood clotting and bone health, and deficiencies can lead to excessive bleeding and weakened bones.
Prevalence values in Nigeria:
Vitamin deficiencies are a global health issue, but the figures in Nigeria as a case study are not too good. Take a look!
Vitamin A deficiency: The World Health Organization (WHO) says the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency among pre-school children in Nigeria is 29.5%.
Deficiency in Vitamin D : Studies show that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency ranges from 29.6% to 67.7%.
Vitamin B12 deficiency: The prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency among Nigerians varies widely, ranging from 7.5% to 77.7% in different studies.
Folate deficiency: Folate deficiency has estimates ranging from 13.8% to 55.6%.These are pretty large values.
There are stages of vitamin deficiencies:
Vitamin deficiencies may occur in different stages in different people. The stages were framed, based on the severity and duration of the deficiency.
Here they are :
Depletion Stage: This stage occurs when the body’s vitamin stores become depleted due to inadequate intake or absorption of the vitamin. At this stage, there may not be any noticeable symptoms.
Early Deficiency Stage: This stage occurs when the body’s vitamin stores are significantly depleted. Hence, there may be some signs such as fatigue, weakness, and anemia.
Marginal Deficiency Stage: Here, the deficiency becomes more severe, and there may be more obvious symptoms. These include muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, and decreased immune function.
Manifest Deficiency Stage: This is the most severe stage of vitamin deficiency, where there are obvious and significant health problems related to the deficiency. For example, vitamin C deficiency can manifest as scurvy, while vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness.
The progression of vitamin deficiency can vary depending on the individual’s age, health status, and other factors.
How to test for vitamin deficiencies:
Yes, obvious signs can tell us that a deficiency is ongoing. But other times, we only have hints and we do only so much as suspect these deficiencies. However, just like any other condition, early detection is very important as regards treatment regimen and having a good prognosis.
So how do we measure vitamin levels, do we know when they’re below optimal?
1.Blood tests: Blood tests are the most common way to measure vitamin levels. The blood is drawn and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This method is used for measuring vitamin B12, vitamin D, and folate levels.
2.Urine tests: Some vitamins, such as vitamin C and thiamine, are excreted in the urine. Urine tests can be used to measure these vitamin levels.
3.Tissue biopsy: In some cases, a small tissue sample may be taken and analyzed for vitamin levels. This method can used for measuring vitamin A levels when absolutely necessary as it is invasive.
4.Hair analysis: Hair analysis can be used to measure certain mineral levels, which can indirectly reflect vitamin levels. However, this method is not commonly used for measuring vitamin levels.
However, it is important to note that measuring vitamin levels is both circumstance and vitamin specific.
The Nigerian government’s initiative
Vitamin deficiencies are very common, especially in rural areas. So our government has put forward several initiatives to tackle this.
One of the most notable is the National Food and Nutrition Policy, which was launched in 2001 to address malnutrition in the country.
The policy includes several strategies to improve the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods, particularly in rural areas. These include promoting the production and consumption of vitamin-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as well as fortifying staple foods such as wheat flour, sugar, and salt with essential vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, the government has established community-based nutrition programs, which provide education and support to rural communities on how to improve their diets and prevent malnutrition.
Lastly, the government launched several initiatives to provide free or subsidized vitamin supplements to vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and young children.
And so far, these initiatives have been successful in reducing the incidence of vitamin deficiencies in these populations.
Till next time, stay healthy!