Deficiencies - Banner



Brittle nails, cramps, depression, insomnia, irritability.



Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body. More than 99% of total body calcium is stored in the bones and teeth; the remaining 1% is found throughout the body in blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells.

It is essential for building and fixing bones and teeth, helping nerves to function, muscle contraction, blood clotting and helping the heart to work. The vast majority of calcium in the body is stored in bone while the rest can be found in the blood.

A sufficient intake of calcium is important as it helps the body to

• maintain healthy bones

• mediate blood vessel function and nerve impulse transmission

• absorb and use other micronutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, and phosphorus

• the maintenance of normal bones and teeth

• normal muscle function and neurotransmission

• normal blood clotting

• normal energy metabolism

• the normal function of digestive enzymes

Conditions / Diseases risk

A high level of calcium (hypercalcaemia) could mean a benign (not cancerous) tumour on the parathyroid gland, a cancer that has spread to the bones, tuberculosis, a kidney transplant or hyperthyroidism - an overactive thyroid.

Low levels of calcium (hypocalcaemia), are usually due to low protein levels, not enough vitamin D, high phosphate levels, kidney disease or hypoparathyroidism - an underactive parathyroid gland.

Colon cancer : Although not all studies agree, some show that people who consume higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D in their diets are less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who consume low amounts of the same nutrients.

Osteoporosis : Calcium is necessary to help build and maintain healthy bones and strong teeth. Studies have shown that calcium, particularly in combination with vitamin D, can help prevent bone loss associated with menopause, as well as the bone loss experienced by older men.

Kidney stones : The cause of kidney stones is usually unknown. However, abnormally elevated urinary calcium increases the risk of developing calcium stones. Although calcium stone formers have been advised to restrict calcium intake in the past, a study of patients with calcium oxalate stones found that dietary salt was the factor most strongly associated with urinary calcium excretion. Further controlled trials are necessary to determine whether supplemental calcium affects the development of kidney stones.

Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure : Some studies suggest that calcium supplementation may play a role in the prevention of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure and preeclampsia. However, not all studies show the same benefit. A prenatal vitamin supplement, which provides magnesium, vitamin B9 (folic acid), and many other nutrients, together with adequate calcium intake through the diet, may lower the risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Stroke : In a population study, women who took in more calcium, both through their diet and with supplements, were less likely to have a stroke over a 14-year period.

High blood pressure : People who do not get enough calcium may be at higher risk of elevated blood pressure (hypertension), and there is some mixed evidence that suggests increasing calcium levels may lower blood pressure slightly. Not all studies have found this benefit; and researchers are not sure whether it is the effects of a diet that includes low-fat dairy products (which contain calcium) that is responsible. More studies are needed before calcium supplements can be recommended for the treatment of hypertension in addition to standard blood pressure medication.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) : A smaller study suggested that calcium may help reduce menstrual pain.

Weight loss : Some studies have found that consuming low-fat dairy products may help you lose or maintain a proper weight. However, researchers are not sure whether the calcium in the dairy products affects weight, some other nutrient, or even a combination of nutrients.

High cholesterol : Preliminary studies suggest that calcium supplements may help to lower cholesterol slightly. From these studies, it appears that calcium supplements, along with exercise and proper diet, may be better at keeping cholesterol at normal levels than at lowering them once cholesterol is already high.

Rickets : Rickets causes softening and weakening of the bone in children. Although virtually eliminated in developed countries, it still occurs in many parts of the world. Researchers have thought that rickets is caused by a lack of vitamin D; however, one study showed that calcium supplementation may be an effective treatment.


Postmenopausal women, people who consume large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, or soda, and those who take corticosteroid medications may be at risk of calcium deficiency.

In addition, calcium deficiency can be found in people with malabsorption problems, such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and surgical intestinal resection.

A long-lasting low calcium intake in growing individuals may prevent the attainment of optimal peak bone mass. Once peak bone mass is achieved, inadequate calcium intake may contribute to accelerated bone loss and ultimately to the development of osteoporosis.



Hair loss, insomnia, muscle weakness.



Overt biotin deficiency is very rare in humans. However, marginal biotin deficiency can be measured by several indicators such as reduced propionyl-CoA carboxylase (PCC) activity in peripheral blood lymphocytes and reduced urinary excretion of biotin.

Deficiency has been shown during prolonged intravenous (‘parenteral’) feeding without vitamin B7 supplementation and consumption of raw egg white for a prolonged period (many weeks to years), since an antimicrobial protein found in raw egg white (avidin) binds biotin and prevents its absorption. Cooking denatures avidin, making it digestible and hence stops its interference with the biotin absorption. Research suggests that a substantial number (at least one-third) of women develop marginal biotin deficiency during normal pregnancy, because the rapidly growing fetus requires biotin for the synthesis of essential biotin-dependent enzymes and proteins.

Additionally, some types of liver disease (cirrhosis) may increase the requirement for biotin due to decreased biotinidase activity, although not biotin deficiency was shown in some study.

Furthermore, anticonvulsant medications used to prevent seizures in individuals with epilepsy increase the risk of biotin depletion and smoking has been associated with increased biotin metabolism. Inborn metabolic disorders of the biotin metabolism are related to deficiencies in the enzymes biotinidase (release of biotin from protein) and holocarboxylase synthetase.

Individuals with inborn metabolic disorders of the biotin metabolism (functional biotin deficiency) show in addition impaired immune system function, seizures, optical atrophy, and increased susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections. The prognosis of the two above mentioned disorders (enzyme deficiencies) is usually good if biotin supplementation is started early and continued for life.


Acne, eczema, hair loss.



The essential fatty acids profile is for those wanting to maximise good health now and look to the future to prevent some of the chronic ill health conditions.

There are four basic types of fat that the body takes from food: cholesterol, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. The polyunsaturated essential fatty acids are the ones the body uses to build itself.

The essential fatty acids are called 'essential' fatty acids because they are necessary for life. The body cannot make EFA's for itself nor can it store them, so we need a regular supply in our food. Essential Fatty Acids are converted by the body into prostaglandins and other chemicals - all of which are needed constantly by most tissues in the body and for essential body processes. Many people are deficient in these valuable oils.

In addition to providing energy, Essential Fatty Acids are part of the structure of every cell in our bodies. We need them to achieve & maintain a healthy heart; but they are also essential for a healthy brain, for healthy function of other organs, eyes, skin, joints, hair & immune system.

EFA's are essential in maintaining a wide range of our bodies' processes: immune responses, blood clotting, muscle maintenance, bodily secretions, the hormone system, cell division, healthy heart, oxygen transport, healthy brain and nerves, kidney function and healthy joints and skin.

Sources of essential fatty acids include:

  • oily fish like salmon, herring and mackerel
  • nuts like walnuts and almonds
  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • olive oil and flaxseed oil
  • whole grain foods
  • lean meats
  • eggs

Adding these products into a diet with other highly nutritional foods and exercise can ensure that you're giving your body the best possible combination of disease fighting, health-boosting nutrients it needs.

Essential Fatty Acid Facts

  • Your Body Can't Live without Fat.
  • The human brain is 60% fat.
  • Fat maintains the integrity of the nervous system, your brain's "communication center" with the rest of your body.
  • Fat is needed by all the cells in your body: Nerve cells, eye cells, brain cells and even heart cells need fat to survive.
  • Your body needs fat in order to properly absorb and use crucial vitamins such as A, D, E, K and Beta-Carotene.
  • Fat boosts your immune system and acts as a shield to keep out harmful germs and microbes that can cause illness.

Every cell in your body is made of these specialized fats, and these cells need a continuous supply of these fatty acids in order to function at its peak. Since your body doesn't produce these acids naturally, it depends on you to.



Fatigue, headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, weakness.



Folate deficiency is one of the commonest vitamin deficiencies. It can result from inadequate intake, defective absorption, abnormal metabolism or increased requirements.

Early symptoms of folate deficiency are non-specific and may include tiredness, irritability and loss of appetite. Severe folate deficiency leads to megaloblastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow produces oversized immature red blood cells.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women are at a higher risk of vitamin B9 deficiency: due to rapid tissue growth during pregnancy and to losses through the milk during breast-feeding, an increased folate/folic acid intake is required. In pregnant women, vitamin B9 deficiency can result in devastating and sometimes fatal birth defects (e.g., neural tube defects).

Vitamin B9, also called folate, is one of the water-soluble B vitamins. The name comes from folium, which is the Latin word for leaves, because folate was first isolated from spinach.

Vitamin B9 can occur in different forms: the naturally occurring folate, and folic acid, a synthetic folate compound used in vitamin supplements and fortified food because of its increased stability.

Folate helps cells grow and divide, reduces risk of certain birth defects, is important for red blood cells and crucial in creating amino acids.

Folate is found in a wide variety of foods such as leafy greens, cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils, spinach and asparagus as well as fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

A sufficient intake of vitamin B9, occurring as folate (in foods) and folic acid (in supplements), is important as it helps the body as a coenzyme to

• utilize amino acids, the building blocks of proteins

• produce nucleic acids (e.g., DNA), the body's genetic material

• form blood cells in the bone marrow

• ensure rapid cell growth in infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy

• control (together with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12) blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, associated with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease

• normal blood formation

• normal homocysteine

• a normal metabolism of the immune system

• normal cell division

• normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy


Conditions / Diseases risk

Birth defects : Studies have found that women who take vitamin B9 (folic acid) supplements before conception and during the first four months of pregnancy (before a woman may even know she is pregnant) may reduce their risk of having children with neural tube defects by 72-100%. Folic acid may also help prevent miscarriage, although the evidence is not clear.


Heart disease : There is some evidence that getting enough vitamin B9 (folate) in diet may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, this evidence is based on population studies and not on definitive clinical trials.

In addition, because folic acid helps control levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the body, and because homocysteine levels tend to be high in people with heart disease, some researchers theorize that lowering levels of homocysteine may help prevent heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. However, more research is needed to clarify the relationship between homocysteine, heart disease, and the potential benefits of folic acid supplements.


Cancer : Vitamin B9 (folate) appears to protect against the development of some forms of cancer, particularly cancer of the colon and the breast. However, this evidence is based on population studies that show people who get enough folate in their diet have lower rates of these cancers. Presently, there is no proof that taking folic acid supplements helps prevent cancer.


Alzheimer’s disease : People who have Alzheimer's disease often have low levels of folic acid in their blood, but it is not clear whether this is a result of the disease or if they are simply malnourished due to their illness. There is some evidence that consuming adequate amounts of vitamin B9 - either in the diet or by supplementation - could be beneficial to the aging brain and help protect it against Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.


Depression : Some studies show that 15-38% of people with depression have low folate levels in their bodies, and those with very low levels tend to be the most depressed. Low levels of folic acid have also been associated with a poor response to antidepressants. More research is needed to understand the link; it appears that folic acid may help enhance the effect of antidepressants, at least in some people, but folic acid itself is not a replacement for antidepressants.



Constipation, depression, fatigue, high cholesterol levels.



Iodine deficiency is a lack of the trace element iodine, an essential nutrient in the diet. It may result in a goiter, sometimes as an endemic goiter as well as cretinism due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism, which results in developmental delays and other health problems.

Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.

There are many glands in the body, but the thyroid gland is the small, butterfly-shaped organ at the base of your neck that makes hormones that regulate your metabolism which affects how the body uses energy and other processes.

While your body goes through hormonal changes every day, you have mood swings, big dips like those that occur during hypothyroidism and it can signal danger, as a lack of thyroid hormone production causes the body’s functions to slow down.

Also to mention, an underactive or overactive thyroid (called hyperthyroidism) can affect your waistline. People with hypothyroidism experience a slower metabolic rate, which is generally associated with some amount of weight gain, usually due to accumulation of salt and water in the body.



Anxiety, brittle nails, confusion, constipation, depression, dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, headaches, mouth lesions, shortness of breath, weakness.



Iron is an essential nutrient for your body, which you get from your food. It is needed for your mental and physical health and to keep your energy levels up. Iron is present in a substance called haemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Oxygen is required in your brain for concentration and in your muscles for physical energy. Iron is also needed to maintain a healthy immune system, helping you to fight off infections.

If the iron levels in your body are low, you can become iron deficient. The recommended levels for iron in the body are different for different people, depending on age and gender. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.

Over time, iron deficiency can mean that your body makes fewer healthy red blood cells, a condition known as Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA).

If iron deficiency is not treated, there can be long-term consequences for your health. Fatigue and other symptoms of iron deficiency can also lower your quality of life and reduce your ability to concentrate and be productive at work.

Balancing the supply and demand for iron in your body is important to maintain good health. Normally, your iron levels remain in balance, with iron from your diet replacing the iron stores used up by your body. The iron in your food is absorbed into the bloodstream in your small intestine.

The supply and demand for iron in your body can become unbalanced for a number of reasons and this can lead to iron deficiency.

A decreased supply of iron to your body can be caused by

  • A lack of iron in your diet. Iron can be found in both animal products and plant foods. Iron from animal products (known as haem iron) is better absorbed by your body than iron from plant foods (known as non-haem iron). If you are vegetarian or vegan it is more likely that you will not be getting enough iron. Choosing what you eat wisely can help to keep your iron levels up.
  • Iron from your food not being absorbed properly in your small intestine. If you have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) or coeliac disease, then the lining of your small intestine may be inflamed. This means that less iron can be absorbed from your food into your bloodstream.


An increased demand for iron may be caused by

Blood loss, for example as a result of:

  • Heavy periods
  • Internal bleeding from your gut (gastro-intestinal bleeding)
  • Frequent blood donation
  • Traumatic injuries/ accidents
  • Surgery


Increased demand for red blood cells or oxygen in your body, for example as a result of:

  • Intense exercise
  • Growth and development in children and adolescents
  • Pregnancy


Chronic inflammation in diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis:

If you have a condition that involves chronic inflammation, your immune system can block the release of iron from your body’s iron stores, reducing the amount of iron available to make red blood cells.


Other medical conditions and/or therapies, such as haemodialysis for patients with kidney disease.



Anxiety, confusion, insomnia, nervousness, weakness.



Magnesium is an important mineral needed for proper muscle, nerve, and enzyme function. It also helps the body make and use energy and is needed to move other electrolytes (potassium and sodium) into and out of cells.

Most of the magnesium in the body is found in the bones and inside the cells. Only a tiny amount of magnesium is normally present in the blood.

Magnesium is found in fibre-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, avocados, bananas, wholemeal bread and brown rice as well as in fish and meat.

Excess magnesium exposure can cause breathing problems, skin and eye irritation, flu-like symptoms and an upset stomach.

Low magnesium can cause muscle aches and pains, lack of energy, osteoporosis, irregular heart beat, and high blood pressure. Low magnesium is associated with heart disease, artherosclerosis, stroke and diabetes.



Confusion, depression, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, muscle weakness.



Vitamin B3, also called niacin, is one of the water-soluble B vitamins. The term niacin refers to nicotinic acid and nicotinamide (also called niacinamide). Both are used to form the coenzymes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP) which play essential roles in living cells.

Niacin (vitamin B3) is often part of a daily multivitamin, but most people get enough niacin from the food they eat. Foods rich in niacin include yeast, milk, meat, tortillas and cereal grains.

A sufficient intake of vitamin B3 (niacin) is important as it helps the body to

• convert food into glucose, used to produce energy

• produce macromolecules, including fatty acids and cholesterol

• DNA repair and stress responses

• normal energy-yielding metabolism

• the normal function of the nervous system

• the maintenance of normal skin and mucous membranes


Conditions / Diseases Risk

Cancer : Some preliminary study results have indicated that increased consumption of vitamin B3 (niacin), along with other micronutrients, might be associated with a decreased incidence of mouth and throat cancer.

Diabetes : Some evidence suggests that vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) might help to delay the time individuals with type 1 diabetes would need to take insulin.

High cholesterol : Vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) supplements in high doses have been used successfully to lower elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and fat (triglyceride) levels in the blood and to increase HDL (good). However, side effects (e.g., flushing of the skin) can be unpleasant and may be harmful in long-term use (liver damage).

Atherosclerosis : Because high-dose vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) lowers LDL and triglycerides in the blood, it may help prevent hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). However, niacin also increases levels of homocysteine in the blood, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.



Depression, eczema, fatigue, hair loss, insomnia, irritability.



Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, belongs to the group of water-soluble B vitamins. Its name originates from the Greek word "pantos", meaning everywhere, as it can be found throughout all living cells.

An adequate supply of pantothenic acid is important as it is incorporated into coenzyme A (CoA), a key player in all aspects of metabolism. Functions of CoA are

• break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for energy generation

• produce cholesterol and bile salts

• synthesize cell membranes

• form red blood cells, as well as sex and stress-related hormones

• normal energy-yielding metabolism

• normal mental performance

• normal synthesis and metabolism of steroid hormones, vitamin D and some neurotransmitters

• the reduction of tiredness and fatigue


Conditions / Diseases risk

Wound healing : Studies, primarily in cell models and animals, suggest that vitamin B5 supplements may speed up wound healing, especially following surgery. However, effects in humans regarding wound repair are inconsistent.

High cholesterol and triglycerides : Several small human studies suggest that pantethine, a derivative of vitamin B5, may help to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood of people with elevated blood lipids.

Inflammatory conditions / diseases : Some pilot studies in humans suggests that pantothenic acid supplements might help to reduce symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as diabetic ulceration, rheumatoid arthritis and acne.



Acne, constipation, depression, fatigue, high cholesterol levels, insomnia, nervousness.


Potassium is essential in regulating how the heart beats. It also helps in the transfer of nutrients into cells and of waste products out of cells and it influences the communication between nerves and muscles.

Potassium (K) is an essential dietary mineral and electrolyte, which conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium is necessary for the function of all living cells, and is thus present in all plant and animal tissues. Normal body function depends on tight regulation of potassium concentrations both inside and outside of cells.

A sufficient intake of potassium is important as it helps the body to

• conduct electricity, which is crucial to heart function and muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function, too

• perform brain and nerve function

• normal muscular and neurological function

• the maintenance of normal blood pressure

Conditions / Diseases Risk

Stroke : Several large population studies have suggested that increased potassium intake is associated with decreased risk of brain infarction.

Taken together, the data suggest that a modest increase in intake of rich sources of dietary potassium could significantly reduce the risk of stroke, especially in individuals with high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or relatively low potassium intakes.

Osteoporosis : Research suggests that increased consumption of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables reduces the acid content of the diet and may preserve calcium in bones, preventing osteoporosis.

Several studies have reported a positive relationship between dietary potassium intake and bone health in populations of women before, during, and after menopause, as well as elderly men.

Kidney stones : Abnormally high calcium in the urine increases the risk of developing kidney stones. Increasing dietary potassium intake by increasing fruit and vegetable intake or by taking potassium bicarbonate supplements has been found to decrease urinary calcium excretion, thereby potentially preventing kidney stone formation.

High blood pressure : Some studies have linked low levels of potassium in the diet with high blood pressure. There is some evidence that potassium supplements might cause a slight drop in blood pressure.

However, study results have been mixed. Two large studies found no effect on blood pressure. It may be that the blood pressure-lowering effect of potassium is more pronounced in individuals with higher salt intakes.


Most people get all of the potassium they need from a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits; thus, clear cases of potassium deficiency (‘hypokalemia’) are rare in healthy individuals eating a balanced diet.

Hypokalemia is usually caused by the body losing too much potassium in the urine or intestines. Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn's disease and the use of some medication can also cause potassium deficiency.

Keeping the right potassium balance in the body depends on the amount of sodium and magnesium in the blood. Too much sodium - common in Western diets that use a lot of salt - may increase the need for potassium.



Acne, depression, dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, irritability, loss of appetite, mouth lesions.


Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin which helps brain function, the body convert protein to energy and helps the immune system produce antibodies.

Vitamin B6 helps maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells. The body uses it to help break down proteins. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need.

High levels of vitamin B6 can cause neurological disorders and numbness. Deficiency of vitamin B6 can cause mouth and tongue sores, irritability, confusion, and depression.

Good sources of Vitamin B6 include nuts, legumes, eggs, meats, fish, whole grains, and fortified breads and cereals.

Alcoholics are thought to be most at risk of vitamin B6 deficiency due to low dietary intakes and impaired metabolism of the vitamin. Beside alcohol abuse, genetic disorders, liver disease, renal dialysis, rheumatoid arthritis can cause deficiency; malabsorption can occur by HIV.

Deficiency in Vitamin B6 may lead to:

  • Sideroblastic anaemia
  • Chronic fatigue / lethargy
  • Dry, scaling skin
  • Conjunctivitis / Pink eye
  • Neuropathy and/or confusion

Vitamin B6 deficiency may be more prevalent in people who are:

  • Alcoholics
  • Suffering from kidney or heart failure
  • Suffering from hyperthyroidism
  • Living with digestive disorders



Dizziness, hair loss, mouth lesions, nervousness.


According to a new UK study improving riboflavin status increases circulating red blood cell numbers and hemoglobin concentrations for young women.

There are Studies showing that the use of the riboflavin supplement elicited a significant improvement in riboflavin blood concentration with a dose response. In turn, improving riboflavin status led to an increase in the number of circulating red blood cells and hemoglobin concentrations: the poorer the riboflavin status at the beginning of the study, the greater the beneficial effect with supplementation. Dietary
iron intake and iron absorption did not change during the study.

According to the researchers these results indicate that poor riboflavin status among this group of women impaired iron handling and improving their riboflavin status would lead to an increase in hemoglobin, independent of any change in dietary iron. The mechanisms by which riboflavin status influences blood characteristics are uncertain.

It has been suggested that an improved riboflavin status may increase the mobilization of the body’s own stores of iron. The scientists concluded that these findings are also relevant for other age groups for which high prevalence of riboflavin deficiency has been reported, including in adolescents and the elderly.

While overt riboflavin deficiency is rare in developed countries because it is found in many foodstuffs, and wheat flour is often fortified with riboflavin, an insufficient vitamin B2 status (without obvious symptoms) however may be widespread. Furthermore, current recommendations for marginal deficiency cut-offs may need to be revised.

Riboflavin deficiency is endemic in many populations with diets low in meat and dairy products. More surprisingly, a high prevalence of riboflavin deficiency was reported in various apparently healthy population groups in affluent countries.

Deficiency in Vitamin B2 may lead to:

  • Sore tongue
  • Chapping/fissuring of lips
  • Oily, scaly skin on scrotum, vulva or philtrum of lips

Vitamin B2 deficiency may be more prevalent in people who are:

  • Alcoholics
  • Suffering from kidney or heart failure
  • Suffering from cirrhosis or hyperthyroidism



High cholesterol levels.


Selenium deficiency is relatively rare in healthy well-nourished individuals.

Selenium deficiency in combination with Coxsackievirus infection can lead to Keshan disease, which is potentially fatal. Selenium deficiency also contributes (along with iodine deficiency) to Kashin-Beck disease. The primary symptom of Keshan disease is myocardial necrosis, leading to weakening of the heart. Kashin-Beck disease results in atrophy, degeneration and necrosis of cartilage tissue. Keshan disease also makes the body more susceptible to illness caused by other nutritional, biochemical, or infectious diseases.

Deficiency in selenium may lead to:

  • Viral cardiomyopathy in young women and children
  • Chronic osteoarthropathy in children
  • Muscle tenderness and pain

Deficiency in Selenium may be more prevalent in people who are:

  • Over 90 years old
  • Undergoing kidney dialysis
  • Living with HIV
  • Undergoing total prenatal nutrition
  • Suffering from severe intestinal disorders or compromised intestinal function

Selenium is also necessary for the conversion of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) into its more active counterpart, triiodothyronine.

Selenium, which is nutritionally essential for humans, is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection.

Selenium is a trace element that is included in between 50 and 100 different proteins in the body, which have multifarious roles, including building heart muscles and producing healthy sperm. It is considered to have high antioxidant potential.

High blood concentrations of selenium have been associated with a reduced risk of developing several cancers, including bladder and prostate cancer.

Coenzyme Q10 plays a vital role in the production of energy by mitochondria.



Confusion, constipation, digestive problems, irritability.


According to the US neurologists, vitamin B1 deficiency can cause a potentially fatal brain disorder called Wernicke encephalopathy.

Wernicke's encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disorder caused by the lack of thiamine (vitamin B1). It may result from alcohol abuse, dietary deficiencies, prolonged vomiting, eating disorders, or the effects of chemotherapy. B1 deficiency causes damage to the brain's thalamus and hypothalamus. Symptoms include mental confusion, vision problems, coma, hypothermia, low blood pressure, and lack of muscle coordination (ataxia). Korsakoff syndrome (also called Korsakoff's amnesic syndrome) is a memory disorder that results from vitamin B1 deficiency and is associated with alcoholism. Korsakoff's syndrome damages nerve cells and supporting cells in the brain and spinal cord, as well as the part of the brain involved with memory. Symptoms include amnesia, tremor, coma, disorientation, and vision problems.

Thiamine deficiency is likely to be underdiagnosed.

Conditions / Diseases risk

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome : It is a brain disorder caused by vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency. The syndrome is actually two disorders: Wernicke's disease involves damage to nerves in the central and peripheral nervous systems and is generally caused by malnutrition stemming from habitual alcohol abuse. Korsakoff syndrome is characterized by memory impairment and nerve damage.

High doses of thiamin have shown to improve muscle coordination and confusion, but only rarely improved memory loss.

Thiamine has become the only vitamin supplement to be regularly administered via the veins (‘parenteral’) to treat extreme alcoholism and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome in hospital emergency departments.

Alzheimer’s disease : Due to lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine) can cause dementia in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (see above), it has been proposed that thiamin might help reduce severity of Alzheimer's disease.

Congestive heart failure (CHF): It is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to the body's other organs, is a common disease, especially in the elderly. As in the general population, older CHF patients were found to be at higher risk of vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency than younger ones. Diuretics used in the treatment of CHF, notably furosemide, have been found to increase thiamin excretion, potentially leading to marginal thiamin deficiency. Therefore, it may be reasonable to provide such patients with thiamine supplementation during heart failure exacerbations.

Presently, the role of thiamin supplementation in maintaining cardiac function in CHF patients remains controversial.

Cancer : As vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency has been observed in some cancer patients with rapidly growing tumors, thiamin supplementation is common in such patients to prevent deficiency.

Some experts have theorized that too much thiamin may actually fuel the growth of cancer cells, as rapidly dividing cancer cells have a high requirement for thiamin, due to an increased level of nucleic acids.

However, there is no evidence available from studies in humans to support this theory. Cancer patients who are considering thiamin supplementation should discuss it with the managing clinician.


Acne, fatigue, insomnia.



Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble compounds that can be differentiated into two categories, depending on whether the food source is an animal or a plant:

Preformed vitamin A or retinol can be found in foods that come from animals. It is one of the most active forms of vitamin A.

Provitamin A carotenoid can be found in fruits and vegetables, and can be cleaved into retinol in the body. The carotenoid beta-carotene is most efficiently converted into retinol, making it an important vitamin A source.


A sufficient vitamin A (retinol) intake is essential for:

• the process of vision (especially night vision)

• growth and development: it is involved in the genetic regulation of cell and tissue formation, programming, and communication needed for reproduction and for the proper development of the embryo in the womb

• immune function: it helps to protect against infections by ensuring the effectiveness of mechanical barriers (e.g., skin), and increasing the production and efficacy of protective cells (e.g., lymphocytes)

• male and female reproductive organs

• normal cell differentiation

• a normal function of the immune system

• the maintenance of normal skin and mucous membranes

• the maintenance of normal vision

• normal iron metabolism


Conditions / Diseases Risk

Eye and skin disease : High doses of vitamin A (retinol) supplements have been used successfully to treat an inherited eye disease (retinitis pigmentosa) and the symptoms of some severe skin disorders (psoriasis and acne).



Vitamin A deficiency usually results from inadequate intake of foods high in vitamin A or betacarotene, a precursor of vitamin A.


Groups at risk

Mainly pregnant and breast-feeding women, newborns, children with frequent infections, the elderly and people who avoid animal-derived foods face the problem of insufficient vitamin A supply.



Constipation, depression, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, irritability, mouth lesions.



Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex of all the vitamins.

Vitamin B12 comprises the only cobalt-containing molecules (so-called cobalamins), with biological activity in humans. The cobalt gives this water-soluble vitamin its red color.

A sufficient intake of vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is important as it helps the body to

• convert food into glucose, which is used to produce energy

• maintain healthy nerve cells

• produce nucleic acids (e.g., DNA), the body's genetic material

• regulate, together with vitamin B9 (folate), the formation of red blood cells

• control, together with vitamin B6 and vitamin B9, blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a potential marker for heart disease risk

• normal red blood cell formation;

• normal cell division

• normal energy metabolism

• a normal function of the immune system


Conditions / Diseases risk

Heart disease : High levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood are associated with heart disease. However, researchers are not sure whether homocysteine is a cause of heart disease or merely a marker that indicates someone may have heart disease. Although increased intake of vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 (folic acid) has been found to decrease homocysteine levels, it is not presently known whether increasing intake of these vitamins will translate to reductions in risk for heart disease.

Breast cancer : Although there is no evidence that vitamin B12 alone reduces the risk of breast cancer, some population studies have shown that women who get more vitamin B9 (folate) in their diet have lower incidence of breast cancer. As vitamin B12 acts together with folate in the body, it may help contribute to a lesser risk.

Birth defects : Studies have found that women who take vitamin B9 (folic acid) supplements before conception and during the first four months of pregnancy (before a woman may even know she is pregnant) may reduce their risk of having children with neural tube defects. As vitamin B12 interacts with folate in the body, it may help contribute to a lesser risk of birth defects.

Alzheimer’s disease : Individuals with Alzheimer's disease often have low blood levels of vitamin B12. However, daily supplementation with vitamin B12, vitamin B9, and vitamin B6 did not affect symptoms.

Depression : Studies have shown that 30% of patients hospitalized for depression are deficient in vitamin B12. However, because few studies have examined the relationship between vitamin B12 status and the development of depression over time, it cannot yet be determined if vitamin B12 deficiency plays a causal role in depression.

Pernicious anemia : Pernicious anemia occurs when stomach cells are not able to make a certain protein the body needs to absorb vitamin B12. Pernicious anemia can be a dangerous condition, which has been treated successfully with vitamin B12 supplements in high doses.

Hyperhomocysteinemia : Studies indicate that high levels of homocysteine in the blood appear to promote mortality and cardiovascular disease. Some evidence exists that keeping homocysteine at levels associated with lower rates of disease requires adequate vitamin B12, vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B6 intake.

Weariness : Small studies have suggested that people in a state of physical and mental weariness (fatigue) who are not deficient in vitamin B12 might gain more energy from vitamin B12 injections.

Male infertility : Studies have suggested that vitamin B12 supplements may improve sperm counts and sperm mobility. However, the evidence is weak.



Mild deficiencies of vitamin B12 are not uncommon in elderly people, either because of poor diet or because they have less stomach acid, which the body needs to absorb vitamin B12.

Severe deficiency of B12 causes neurological damage.



Bleeding gums, depression, irritability.



Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin which is essential for normal functioning of the body.

Unlike most mammals, humans don't have the ability to make vitamin C. Vitamin C must be obtained diet.


Vitamin C is essential for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is essential for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth.


Vitamin C is an antioxidant, along with vitamin E, beta-carotene, and many other plant-based nutrients. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals, which occur naturally when our bodies transform food into energy. The build-up of free radicals over time may be largely responsible for the aging process and can contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.


Smoking cigarettes lowers the amount of vitamin C in the body, so smokers are at a higher risk of deficiency. Signs of vitamin deficiency include dry and splitting hair, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums, rough, dry and scaly skin, decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising, nosebleeds and a decreased ability to ward off infection. A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy.

Low levels of vitamin C have been associated with a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, stroke, some cancers, and atherosclerosis (the build-up plaque in blood vessels that can lead to heart attack and stroke). Getting enough vitamin C from your diet (by eating lots of fruit and vegetables) may help reduce the risk of developing some of these conditions.


A sufficient intake of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is important as it helps the body to

• make collagen, an important protein in skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels

• grow and repair tissues

• heal wounds

• repair and maintain bones and teeth

• synthesize neurotransmitters

• block some of the damage caused by free radicals by working as an antioxidant along with vitamin E, beta-carotene and many other plant-based nutrients. This damage can contribute to the aging process and the development of cancer, heart disease and arthritis

• the protection of cell constituents from oxidative damage

• normal collagen formation and the normal function of bones, teeth, cartilage, gums, skin and blood vessels

• the increase of non-heme iron absorption

• the normal function of the nervous system

• a normal function of the immune system

• normal energy-yielding metabolism

• the maintenance of the normal function of the immune system during and after intense physical exercise.


Conditions / Diseases Risk

Heart disease : Results of scientific studies on whether vitamin C is helpful for preventing heart attack or stroke are mixed. Vitamin C was not shown to lower cholesterol levels or to reduce the overall risk of heart attack, but some evidence suggests that it may help protect arteries against damage (atherosclerosis) by acting as an antioxidant.


High blood pressure : Population studies suggest that people who eat foods rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, have a lower risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) than people who have poorer diets.


Cancer : Results of many population studies suggest that eating foods rich in vitamin C may be associated with lower rates of cancer, including lung, stomach and possibly breast cancer. As these foods contain not only vitamin C but also many beneficial micronutrients and antioxidants, it is impossible to say for certain that vitamin C protects against cancer.


Arthritis : Vitamin C is essential for the body to make collagen, which is a part of normal cartilage. Cartilage is destroyed in osteoarthritis, putting pressure on bones and joints. Research suggests that free radicals may also be involved in the destruction of cartilage, and that antioxidants such as vitamin C may limit these damaging effects. There is some evidence that people who eat diets rich in vitamin C are less likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.


Age-related eye diseases : Vitamin C appears to work with other antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamin E, to protect the eyes against developing disorders such as cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD), the leading causes of legal blindness in people over 55. The people who seem to benefit are those with advanced age-related eye diseases.


Other disorders : Although the information is limited, studies suggest that vitamin C may also be helpful for boosting immune system functions, maintaining healthy gums, reducing effects of sun exposure (sunburn or redness), healing burns and wounds, reducing symptoms of exercise-induced asthma, and inhibiting the absorption of toxic lead.


Diabetes : Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in individuals with diabetes. Evidence that diabetes is a condition of increased free radical activity led to the hypothesis that higher intakes of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C could help decrease heart disease risk in diabetic individuals. To date, trials have not proven that supplementation with vitamin C is beneficial in treating (or preventing) heart disease in individuals with diabetes.


Common cold : Studies have shown that taking vitamin C supplements regularly (not just at the beginning of a cold) leads to a small reduction in the duration of a cold (about 1 day). In studies examining people exercising in extreme environments (athletes such as skiers and marathon runners), vitamin C seemed to reduce the risk of getting a cold.




Although serious deficiencies are rare in industrialized countries, some evidence suggests that many people may be mildly deficient in vitamin C.


Smoking cigarettes lowers the amount of vitamin C in the body, so smokers are more at risk of deficiency.


Signs of vitamin deficiency include dry and splitting hair, inflammation of the gums, bleeding gums, rough, dry and scaly skin, decreased wound-healing rate, easy bruising, nosebleeds, and a decreased ability to ward off infection.


A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy.


Depression, fatigue, hair loss, insomnia, nervousness.



Vitamin D comprises a group of fat-soluble compounds that are essential for maintaining the mineral balance in the body. The vitamin D form synthesized in humans is called ‘cholecalciferol’ (vitamin D3). As cholecalciferol is synthesized in the skin by the action of ultraviolet light (UVB), vitamin D does not fit the classical definition of a vitamin; nevertheless, it is recognized as an essential dietary nutrient.

The sun is our major vitamin D source. However, several factors such as sunscreen with a sun protection factor above 8, age, darker skin pigmentation, northern latitude greater than 40 degrees and the winter season reduce the production of vitamin D in the skin.

A sufficient intake of vitamin D (calciferol) is important as it helps the body to

• maintain healthy blood levels of calcium and phosphorus

• build and maintain healthy bones

• control cell division and specialization

• modulate the immune system

• the maintenance of normal bones and teeth

• the normal function of the immune system and healthy inflammatory response

• the maintenance of normal muscle function

• normal absorption/utilization of calcium and phosphorus and maintenance of normal blood calcium concentrations

• normal cell division

In addition, vitamin D plus calcium are needed for the maintenance of normal bone.


Conditions / Diseases risk

Bone disorders : Adequate amounts of vitamin D throughout one's life - in combination with exercise, proper nutrition, calcium, and magnesium - are necessary for building up and maintaining bones and preventing bone loss. Vitamin D is needed to properly absorb calcium. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D and insufficient sunlight exposure (fewer than 20 minutes per day) are associated with osteoporosis. Calcium, together with vitamin D, has been shown to help heal bone fractures from osteoporosis and decrease the risk of future bone breaks. In addition, vitamin D has demonstrated a beneficial effect on muscle function and strength and thereby reduces the risk of falling. Moreover, vitamin D is well known to protect against ‘rickets’ and ‘osteomalacia’, diseases of severe vitamin deficiency.

Cancer : Studies in test tubes have indicated that vitamin D may have anti-cancer effects, while clinical study findings on vitamin D and specific cancers such as colorectal cancer have been inconsistent. However, some studies have shown strong evidence that high doses of vitamin D supplements may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, some population studies have suggested that supplementation with vitamin D may improve survival rates in those with a history of breast cancer. Other studies indicated that vitamin D3 supplementation might be effective in treating skin cancer. However, this research is still in the experimental stages.

Autoimmune diseases : Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency or a low vitamin D status may be linked to an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases, overactive immune responses of the body attacking its own cells and organs. Clinical studies evaluating the use of vitamin D for some forms of arthritis (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) have found vitamin D to have preventive effects. Observational data has suggested that vitamin D from foods and sunlight may help protect against multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease in which the body's immune response attacks a person's brain and spinal cord. Research has shown that supplementing infants and children with high doses of vitamin D may protect against the development of type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells.

Cardiovascular disease and High blood pressure Data from clinical studies have suggested a link between low levels of vitamin D and high blood pressure. Moreover, low vitamin D status (as measured by the 25(OH)-vitamin D plasma level) is thought to be independently associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality or a higher risk of a heart attack.

Other disorders : Although the information is limited, studies have suggested that vitamin D supplementation may also be helpful to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that occurs during the winter months because of lack of sunlight, and tuberculosis, an infectious disease.



Reports from across the world indicate that vitamin D insufficiency is widespread and is re-emerging as a major health problem globally.

In vitamin D deficiency, calcium absorption cannot be increased enough to satisfy the body’s calcium needs. Consequently, calcium is mobilized from the skeleton to maintain normal serum calcium levels, resulting in bone loss.

One of the most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries is ‘rickets’, a softening of bones, caused by severe vitamin D deficiency and thus potentially leading to bowed legs and arms and other deformities.

Osteoporosis (‘brittle bones’) is a disease in which the quality and density of the bone is reduced, thus increasing the risk of fractures. It usually occurs in people of older age, but can happen to anyone at any age. Osteoporosis is a silent disease. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs. Osteoporosis has been associated with less obvious states of vitamin D deficiency, called vitamin D ‘insufficiency’.


Groups at risk

• infants who are exclusively breast fed (human milk is a poor source of vitamin D)

• premature and low-birth-weight infants

• elderly people (reduced capacity to synthesize vitamin D in the skin by exposure to sunlight)

• people with diseases affecting the liver, kidneys or have impaired fat absorption

• vegetarians

• alcoholics

• overweight or obese people (reduced ability to produce vitamin D in the skin and to absorb it through the intestines)

• people who are housebound (lack of sunshine exposure)

• dark-skinned people produce less vitamin D from sunlight



Acne, brittle nails, depression, eczema, fatigue, hair loss, high cholesterol levels, irritability, loss of appetite.


Zinc (Zn) is found in nearly 100 different enzymes and as such is an essential building block for all life. Zinc is the second most common trace mineral in the body after iron and is present in every living cell. The human body contains approximately three grams of zinc, the highest concentrations of which are located in the prostate gland and the eye.

Particularly in developing countries, zinc deficiency is regarded as an important public health issue by scientists.

A sufficient intake of zinc is important as it supports the body in

• immune function

• protein synthesis

• wound healing

• DNA synthesis

• cell division

• normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence

• tasting and smelling

• a normal function of the immune system

• normal DNA synthesis and cell division

• the protection of cell constituents from oxidative damage

• the maintenance of normal bone

• normal cognitive function

• normal fertility and reproduction

• normal metabolism of fatty acids

• normal acid-base metabolism

• normal metabolism of vitamin A

• the maintenance of normal vision

• the maintenance of normal skin

• the maintenance of normal hair

• the maintenance of normal nails

Conditions / Diseases risk

Retarded growth : Marked growth retardation in children is a common feature of mild zinc deficiency. It can be seen particularly in developing countries. Reduced zinc intake by expectant mothers has been linked to decreased attention spans in newborn babies and poorer motor skills at six months. Better coordination in underweight babies and more energetic movement in very young children have been achieved through zinc supplementation. Adequate zinc supply is vital for normal development and growth throughout pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

Impaired immune system function : Sufficient zinc supply is important for maintaining immune system function. Individuals exhibiting a zinc deficiency are often more prone to various infectious diseases, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and (in children) malaria. The duration and severity of acute and persistent childhood diarrhea was shown in a number of studies to be greatly reduced through zinc supplementation in combination with rehydration. Survival rates were also shown to improve. Children from developing countries who were given zinc supplements showed a considerable decrease in the number of cases of pneumonia, according to various studies. Some studies have suggested that the occurrence of cases of childhood malaria could be decreased through supplementation with zinc. Other studies however showed no benefit from supplementation*. That the elderly are more prone to mild zinc deficiencies has been linked to age-related deterioration of immune response. Some studies have shown that levels of immune cells have been seen to increase with zinc supplementation, while others have observed no effect.

Pregnancy complications : Several pregnancy complications have been linked to poor zinc status among expectant mothers. These include preterm birth, low birth weight, labor and delivery problems, and abnormalities in developing fetuses. There have been mixed results from trials where expectant mothers have been given zinc supplements. Some studies noted increased birth weight and reduced incidence of premature birth with supplementation of zinc, others showed no discernible effects.

Age-related macular degeneration : The amount of zinc present in the retina decreases with age. Zinc is therefore thought to be an important factor in the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is where the part of the retina responsible for central vision begins to deteriorate. Zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and copper were found to slow the development of AMD in a largescale clinical trial. However, there have been studies that have observed no effect with zinc supplementation*. Currently there is little evidence that zinc has a preventative effect on AMD but more research is needed.

The Common Cold : Evidence is mixed, but many people believe that zinc lozenges or zinc nasal sprays can reduce the duration and severity of colds if used consistently from when they first notice symptoms*. More high-quality research is required before conclusions can be drawn as to the effectiveness of zinc against certain strains of the common cold.

Diabetes : People who suffer from diabetes may often exhibit a moderate zinc deficiency. More studies are needed, however, before zinc supplementation can be prescribed for diabetics.

HIV infection / AIDS : People diagnosed with HIV are more likely to exhibit a deficiency of zinc, which is vital for maintaining normal immune responses. A more advanced stage of the illness and also an increased mortality rate have been associated with low blood levels of zinc in HIV-positive people. Ascertaining optimal zinc supply levels for people with HIV will require studies.