Nutrition Gap And Its Common Signs And Symptoms

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KEY POINTS

  • About 2 billion people have nutrition gap all over the world
  • Iron deficiency is the most common condition that’s indicative of nutrition gap
  • Pregnant women advised to eat more greens and nuts to prevent folate deficiency complications 

Nutrition gap is very common not only in the United States but also in the entire world. It’s kind of tricky to identify the condition since not everyone is well-informed about its signs and symptoms. Fortunately, an expert recently shared how to tell if you have a nutrition gap and the ways to address it. 

The World Health Organization reports that about 2 billion people or more than 30% of the world’s population have a nutrition gap. The specific conditions vary, but the most common of which is iron deficiency or anemia. There is a high prevalence of anemia in resource-poor areas as people there are prone to getting infectious diseases, and they also struggle to get access to healthier food options.

Nevertheless, even in First World countries like the U.S., many people still deal with iron deficiency. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, told Well+Good that this type of nutritional deficiency is particularly common in women because they lose iron monthly as part of menstruation. 

Since iron is an essential mineral needed in the production of the protein hemoglobin in the blood, lower levels could lead to mild to severe problems, like heart ailments. The most common signs and symptoms of this condition are feeling slugging and having very low energy. For this reason, Taub-Dix recommends taking iron supplements. 

“It’s not always easy to meet your nutritional needs every single day by diet alone. Vitamin and mineral supplements are kind of like insurance—they supplement your diet by helping to ensure that you meet your body’s demands,” said Taub-Dix, who authored the book “Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table.”

Another common condition that is indicative of the nutrition gap is calcium deficiency. Oregon State University has found that more than 40% of the U.S. population fail to meet the required daily dose of calcium from food sources. 

When the body is lacking calcium, the bones and teeth become brittle and weak. This could lead to osteoporosis in older adults. Other signs and symptoms of the condition include numbness and tingling in the fingers, abnormal heart rhythms and convulsions, Cleveland Clinic said. Taub-Dix recommends taking calcium supplements on top of consuming dairy products like milk and cheese. 

Finally, the third most common nutrition deficiency is folic acid deficiency. The body needs folic acid in the form of folate, a B vitamin, to promote the proper functioning of cells. It also plays an important role in the break down of old proteins and the production of new proteins. 

According to the National Health Service, folate deficiency has similar symptoms with iron deficiency since both cause anemia. People with low levels of folic acid in their system tend to feel weak and tired. They also experience headaches and always seem breathless. Loss of appetite and weight loss are also common in these cases. 

Taub-Dix said dark leafy vegetables and nuts are the best sources of folate. She is also encouraging women who are trying to get pregnant to eat folic acid-rich foods and take supplements because a deficiency in this B vitamin could lead to neural tube defects in babies during pregnancy. 

Signs of pernicious anemia, a condition resulting from a vitamin B12 deficiency Signs of pernicious anemia, a condition resulting from a vitamin B12 deficiency Photo: Alexander Dummer – Pexels

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