3 Common Nutrient Shortfalls to Look Out For
Proper nutrition is the cornerstone on which good health is built. Nutrients in the diet provide fuel for your body, allowing it to properly function and maintain itself. There are different types of essential nutrients that can be grouped into two main categories: macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and lipids) which are needed in larger quantities, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are required in smaller amounts.
A healthy diet will provide the spectrum of nutrients in the appropriate amounts. There is a wide range of nutrients, for example, omega-3s, vitamins like riboflavin, and vitamins A and C, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and calcium, that play important roles in supporting optimal health. Balanced diets, like the Mediterranean diet, which emphasise whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and the like provide healthy nutrition. However, it can be difficult to keep track of everything you need to get from your diet. Combined with the prevalence of processed junk food, which often lacks key nutrients, many diets are not providing people with everything they need to be their best.
Let’s take a look at a few common nutrients that many people are not getting enough of.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body and plays a critical role in bone health and strength, making up 30-35% of bone mass.1 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set a Daily Value (DV) of 1,300 mg a day for adults and children four and up. Certain groups like postmenopausal women, teenage girls and women on birth control are at a higher risk of calcium inadequacy because hormonal fluctuations frequently affect calcium absorption and bone loss.2
In the US, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2017-2018 found that the average calcium intake was only about 968 mg a day.3 A review of global calcium intake found that many countries have low average calcium intake.1 Many countries in Asia had an average calcium intake of less than 500 mg a day, and most African and South American countries had an average intake of less than 700 mg a day.1 It’s important that the majority of the calcium is obtained from calcium-rich foods like dairy products including milk, yoghurt, and cheese. Other food sources include soybeans and leafy greens like spinach, turnip greens and kale. Calcium supplements can be used to fill in the nutritional gap, but supplementation should stay below 500 mg a day due to increased cardiovascular risk associated with high doses of supplemental calcium.4
Vitamin D is a unique, fat-soluble nutrient. It is also known as the sunshine vitamin because your body actually produces vitamin D when skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining strong bone health by promoting the absorption of calcium in the gut and it also supports immune health.5 Though vitamin D can be produced in the body, it can also be consumed and the FDA set a DV of 20 mcg a day. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver.5
Unfortunately, few people are meeting the 20 mcg a day recommendation. The NHANES 2017-2018 found that the average vitamin D intake from food was just 4.3 mcg a day.3 Almost a fifth of the population was categorised as at risk of vitamin D inadequacy.6 A review of global vitamin D status found that with few exceptions, there are “very high levels of inadequacy of vitamin D intake.”7
Dietary fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. Though not absorbed by the body, fibre is still important for gastrointestinal health and has been shown to lower cholesterol, improve glycaemic (blood sugar) control and lower blood pressure.8 Observational studies have identified associations between high fibre intake and lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type-2 diabetes.8
The World Health Organization recommends adults consume 25 grams of dietary fibre a day, and the FDA Daily Value is 28 grams a day.9 The NHANES 2017-2018 found that the average fibre intake was just 16.2 grams a day.3 A study in Europe found that the average daily fibre intake was 15 grams for women and 20 grams for men.9 Good sources of dietary fibre includes beans, whole grains like oats, brown rice, and whole wheat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Balanced nutrition is the foundation for good health. There is a broad spectrum of nutrients your body needs in varying amounts in order to operate optimally. We all know we should eat a healthy, balanced diet but many people often fall short in reality.
There are nutrients that are more widely under consumed than others, and calcium, vitamin D, and dietary fibre are among those considered nutrients of public health concern.10 Taking supplements is an effective option to increase intake of these nutrients.2,5,8 It is important to choose a reputable company with high quality products so you know exactly what you’re getting in your supplements.
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- Balk EM, et al. Global dietary calcium intake among adults: A systematic review. Osteoporos Int. 2017 Oct; 28(12): 3315-24. doi: 10.1007/s00198-017-4230-x.
- Calcium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Updated Oct 6, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/.
- NHANES Interactive Data Visualizations. National Center for Health Statistics. Updated Nov 24, 2021. Accessed April 20, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/visualization/index.htm.
- Tankeu AT, et al. Calcium supplementation and cardiovascular risk: A rising concern. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2017 Jun; 19(6): 640-6. doi: 10.1111/jch.13010.
- Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Updated August 12, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#h4.
- Herrick KA, et al. Vitamin D status in the United States, 2011-2014. Am J Clin Nutri. 2019 Jul; 110(1): 150-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz037.
- Cashman KD. Global differences in vitamin D status and dietary intake: a review of the data. Endocr Connect. 2022 Jan; 11(1): e210282. doi: 10.1530/EC-21-0282.
- Fiber. Linus Pauling Institute. Updated June 2019. Accessed April 19, 2023. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/fiber.
- Ionita-Mindrican DB, et al. Therapeutic Benefits and Dietary Restrictions of Fiber Intake: A State of the Art Review. Nutrients. 2022 Jul. 14(13): 2641. doi: 10.3390/nu14132641.
- Food Sources of Select Nutrients. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Accessed April 24, 2023. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials/food-sources-select-nutrients.