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Most Common Micronutrient Deficiencies in the U.S.

Some people wonder whether or not it makes sense to take supplements. Are Americans really at risk for being deficient in micronutrients? Because the U.S. is a developed country and a number of foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, deficiencies aren’t that common in the general population. However, certain groups are at a higher risk for deficiency than others. For example, women tend to be more likely to be low in iron and people who don’t get enough to eat in general and the elderly may also be more likely to be deficient in a number of nutrients. Abusing alcohol also increases the risk for nutrient deficiencies, especially of certain B vitamins, as it interferes with the absorption of the vitamins even as these nutrients are necessary in larger amounts to process the alcohol consumed.

Most Common Deficiencies

Approximately 10.5 percent of Americans don’t get as much vitamin B-6 as they should, about 8.1 percent don’t get enough vitamin D and about 6.7 percent of Americans don’t consume enough iron in their diet. About 7 percent of men don’t get the recommended amounts of vitamin C, compared to about 5 percent of women whose diets are lacking in this essential nutrient. Small numbers of Americans, about 1 to 2 percent, are deficient in each vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin E and folate.

Good Sources

Small dietary changes can make a big difference. For example, most fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C, iron and the B vitamins are found in fortified grain products as well as meat and poultry. Simply spending more time outside in the sun can help you get enough vitamin D, but fortified dairy products are another good way to increase your intake of this vitamin that’s essential for strong bones and proper immune function. Orange vegetables, such as carrots and squash, provide one form of vitamin A, called beta-carotene, which is important for good eyesight. Another alternative is to take a daily multivitamin. These supplements provide a balanced amount of the different essential nutrients. Taking single nutrient supplements isn’t a good idea unless you’re under a doctor’s supervision, as it is possible to get too much of these vitamins and some vitamins and minerals compete for absorption. Taking a large amount of one nutrient could make it so you can’t absorb as much of another nutrient.