5 most common Nutritional Deficiencies among Indian Adults

Nutrients are building blocks of our body. Macro and micronutrients play a variety of roles starting from metabolizing and providing energy, formation of blood cells, bones and muscles to providing immunity to fight diseases and many more. Nutritional requirement of every individual varies depending on factors like age, sex, medical conditions and physical activity. Most of the nutrients cannot be produced by the human body and hence we need to depend on food sources to meet the requirements.

Nutritional deficiencies of both macro and micro nutrients are becoming very common in all age groups. Adults in their 30s show a considerable rise in the nutritional deficiencies. As per a recent survey urban Indian population is also getting susceptible to micro-nutrient deficiencies leading to the onset of various complicated illnesses early in their lives.

1. Vitamin D: as per study published in 2018, almost 50-90% of Indians are deficient in Vitamin D

The trend is increasing more and more in the urban population due to the adaptation of western culture of working in air-conditioned rooms, less exposure to sunlight and increased use of high SPF sunscreen lotions. Vitamin D is synthesized in our skin when UV-B rays from sunlight penetrate the skin. Low Vitamin D levels in the body paves the way for various diseases like low metabolism, weight gain, type -II diabetes, lower immunity, depression and poor skeletal and health.

  • Increase intake of Vitamin D products like milk and milk products, breakfast cereals.
  • Include Vitamin D rich sources from food like fish oil capsules, egg yolk, milk and milk products.
  • Include supplementation only if advised by doctor or nutritionists.
  • Avoid using high SPF sunscreen lotions if not exposed continuously in the sun for the whole day.
  • Regular exposure to sunlight for 20-30 minutes, preferably the morning sunlight.

2. Vitamin B12: as per 2019 study, almost 47% of Indian population are deficient in Vitamin B12

As Indians are predominantly vegetarians, B12 sources decrease considerably in the diet. Also, absorption of Vitamin B12 requires the presence of intrinsic factor in the intestine, gastric issues and hyper-acidity can adversely affect the absorption of Vitamin B12. Its deficiency affects the metabolism, energy levels and cardiac health adversely.

  • Include foods of animal origin in the diet like meat, egg, fish, milk and milk products.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of spicy foods to reduce the chances of hyper-acidity.
  • For vegetarians include fermented products like Dosa, idli, curd in the diet as it contains Vitamin B12 in small amount.
  • Regular blood check-ups to check for deficiency and take prescribed supplementation.

3. Iron: almost 40% of Indian population suffers from anemia

National surveys as well as many studies have shown that India faces a high burden of Anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common forms of anemia. According to NFHS, urban population also shows considerably higher numbers. Urban adult populations show a rise in anemia because of the poor eating habits, not including enough of Vitamin C rich foods which aids in the absorption of iron from vegetarian sources. Regular health check-ups and proper dietary changes along with necessary supplementation prescribed by doctors or nutritionists can help to reduce the prevalence of anemia.

  • Include daily intake of 2 or more sources of iron like dates, dried figs, black raisins, garden cress seeds (halim), chicken liver.
  • Include a combination of folic acid sources like beetroot, green leafy vegetables, sprouts.
  • Include Vitamin C rich foods along with iron sources like oranges, lemon, amla, guava regularly in the diet.
  • Avoid combining calcium and iron rich foods together as they compete for absorption. For eg. dates milkshake, raisins in kheer should be avoided.
  • Reduce intake of tea or coffee as tannin and caffeine hampers nutrient absorption.

4. Calcium: almost 40% of Indian population is calcium deficient

Calcium is a vital nutrient for healthy bones and skeletal health. In children calcium deficiencies cause rickets and in adults it can cause osteoporosis or osteomalacia. Decline in the intake of milk and milk products, low Vitamin D levels are common reasons for calcium deficiencies.

  • Consume daily dose of milk and milk products.
  • Avoid combining caffeinated products like coffee or chocolate with calcium rich products as they hamper the calcium absorption.
  • Avoid combining calcium and iron rich foods together as they compete for absorption. For eg. dates milkshake, raisins in kheer should be avoided.
  • Keep a check on the Vitamin D levels as it plays a vital role in calcium absorption.

5. Iodine: Iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs) have been recognized as one of the major nutritional disorders throughout the world affecting 200 million people

In India, the entire population is prone to IDDs due to deficiency of iodine in the soil of the sub-continent and thus both animal and plant source food grown on the iodine-deficient soil. Iodine deficiencies affect the development of intelligence quotient (IQ) of children adversely. For adult’s iodine is related to the thyroid gland functionality and one of the most common IDD is goitre or enlargement of the thyroid gland. Due to the nationwide rule to add Iodine in salt, there has been a considerable decrease in the prevalence of iodine deficiency.

  • Add iodized salt in the diet
  • Non-vegetarians can try to add seafood like shrimp, cod or tuna fish
  • Check for deficiencies and add supplementation when prescribed.

Thus we can see micro-nutrients though required in small quantities play various vital roles in our body and hence it is important to take regular intake of all essential vitamins and minerals regularly from the diet. Avoid buying multivitamins or any supplements on your own and have only when prescribed by your doctor or nutritionist.


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