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Do you sometimes suffer from cracked lips, lacklustre hair or brittle nails? You might think that these are just little niggling things, but they could be a sign that you are lacking in vitamins or minerals.
We’ve all heard about children suffering from scurvy in the past because they were deficient in vitamin C, but cases of clinical deficiency are rare in the modern world.
However, vitamins and minerals continue to play an important part in our health and a minor deficiency in any one, can lead to a host of health issues ranging from dry skin and tiredness to psoriasis and depression.
Once you know that a deficiency is responsible for what’s wrong with you, it’s usually easy to remedy. You change your diet so that you get as much of that nutrient as you need.
Yet recent research by the supplement retailer Healthspan found that despite the fact that 20% of people have suffered from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, up to 60% have no idea what health complaints might result.
They don’t have the knowledge needed to identify what is lacking in their diets.
This is definitely true here in Ireland. According to research carried out by UCC’s Centre for Nutrition Research, 12% of the population are deficient in vitamin D.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland published a report last year which found that just 36% of Irish women of childbearing age had folate levels high enough to provide optimal protection against neural tube defects.
And a survey carried out in 2015 found that 42% of Irish women were at risk of iron deficiency.
These sub-optimal nutrient levels can create long-term health problems. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis. A lack of iron can cause anaemia and low folate levels puts the next generation at risk.
These aren’t the only nutrients that are causing concern either. Many people don’t achieve their recommended daily intake of selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, riboflavin or vitamin A.
So, what should you do if you think you might be one of these people?
Experts recommend good-quality sleep, limited alcohol consumption, no smoking, reducing stress, becoming more physically active, and following a balanced diet.
If you feel you are short of a particular vitamin or mineral, get a blood test to confirm and then try to eat more foods containing that particular nutrient.
The following are some common complaints linked to low vitamin and mineral levels:
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