Vitamin deficiency diseases

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How the lack of crucial vitamins affect our overall health

Vitamins play a large role in pursuing a healthy lifestyle and living a life full of energy and vitality. Proper vitamin usage helps to stave off certain illnesses (the common cold, brittle bones) and build up your auto-immune system. If taken on a consistent basis, good multi-vitamins play a huge part in helping our bodies to perform and maintain optimum performance for our daily living and when our bodies are under stress.

In the absence of certain vitamins, our bodies are likely to develop vitamin deficiency diseases that can contribute to an overall state of physical decline and the inability to fight off particular illnesses. Vitamins contain certain minerals and composites that generate with our cellular tissues and helps the body in rejuvenating itself.

Deficiency Discovery

Vitamin deficiency diseases are believed to have been discovered in Java by a Dutch physician named Dr. Christian Eijkman. In 1896, Dr. Eijkman launched a project where he carefully observed the strange behavior of the chickens that were on the yard of the hospital where he worked. He noticed that the chickens were limping and walked unsteadily, much in the same manner as the patients in his hospital who had vitamin deficiency diseases.

Ironically, these chickens were given scraps of table food leftover from the patient’s meals (consisting mainly of polished rice), so he decided to do an experiment that would confirm that the chickens diets were responsible for their conditions.

In his experiment, Dr. Eijkman divided the chickens into two groups so that he could control the group(s) and observe them more closely. In one group, he kept the chickens on the diet of polished rice, the same leftovers from the patient meals.

In the other group of chickens, Dr. Eijkman fed them unpolished rice, later discovering that their symptoms improved and disappeared over time. The polished rice, which lacked certain critical vitamins and minerals, was believed to be the culprit and the reason why the first set of chickens behaved as they did. Thus, Dr. Eijkman through the use of animal testing found a pathway to a resource in solving problems of nutrition and vitamin deficiency. As a result of his tests, in 1926 vitamin B1 (thiamine) was discovered as the key nutrition element in rice hulls. Rice hulls are in high concentrations in certain cereals, nuts and yeast.

Because of the strides that Dr. Eijkman made in his research and discovery, the medical and science fields are now better able to identify certain vitamin deficiency diseases that exist, and in many instances, offer alternative solutions to counter them. Not all vitamin deficiencies are simplistic enough to warrant no help, but with a few lifestyle adjustments, deficiencies can be remedied.

Types of Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency usually results from inadequate intake of foods that are high in vitamin A. This includes foods like liver, kidney, butter, milk, cream, cheese, and fortified margarine and the deficiency typically occurs in children in underdeveloped countries.

The recommended daily allowance for vitamin A is 1 mg for adult males and 0.8 mg for adult females. Some of the results of the deficiency include:

- Bitot spots (keratin buildup and debris located superficially in the conjunctiva)
- Blindness due to retinal injury
- Night blindness
- Dry skin
- Dry hair
- Broken fingernails


Thiamine vitamin deficiency results from an inadequate dietary intake of vitamin B1, and can also be a residual effect of alcoholism or a prolonged bout of diarrhea. Serious thiamine-deficiency is most prevalent in Asians (as Beriberi) because their diets subsists mainly of unenriched rice and wheat.


This deficiency results from a diet deficient in milk, meat, fish, legumes, and green, leafy vegetables. Just as with Thiamine, alcoholism or prolonged diarrhea may also induce a riboflavin deficiency. Also, consuming milk that has been exposed to sunlight or treating legumes (beans) with baking soda can destroy the Riboflavin vitamin, leaving a person vulnerable to the disease.


Niacin produces pellagra, a substance which affects the skin, central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Once commonly found among Southerners whose main diets consisted mainly of corn and minimal protein consumption. Today, the deficiency is seldom found in the United States, but is still quite common in parts of Egypt, Romania, Africa, Serbia, and Montenegro where corn is still a dominant staple food.


The Cobalamin deficiency’s primary cause is a diet lacking in vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and berries. The body cannot store water-soluble vitamin in large amounts, therefore the supply needs to be replenished daily.

The deficiency is also caused by air overexposure or overcooking vitamin C rich foods, excessive vitamin C ingestion during pregnancy and low intake of vitamin C during periods of high stress on the human body. Stress depletes the body’s tissues of vitamin C.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency generally results from an inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D, or too little exposure to sunlight. The vitamin D deficiency has also been found to occur in overcrowded urban areas. The absence of sunlight or smog limitations inhibit the absorption of the D vitamin.

Vitamin E

The Vitamin E deficiency is commonly found in infants and usually results from them having consumed formulas high in polyunsaturated fatty acids that are fortified with iron but not vitamin E. Also, because vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, a deficiency also develops in conditions associated with fat malabsorption, such as cystic fibrosis.

Vitamin K

The Vitamin K deficiency is commonly found among newborns within the first few days postpartum. Poor placental transfer of vitamin K to the infant and also inadequate production of vitamin K-producing intestinal flora is the main culprit. The deficiency can also be caused by a prolonged use of drugs, such as antibiotics that destroy normal intestinal bacteria.

Additionally, other causes are a decreased bile flow to the small intestine from bile duct obstruction, a malabsorption of vitamin K due to bowel resection, ulcerative colitis, or chronic hepatic disease. The vitamin K deficiency seldom results from an insufficient dietary intake of it.

Although vitamin deficiency diseases are not as common or as widespread as they once were, they still do exist and they can still cause many of the same problems that they are known for. Proper and consistent vitamin intake work well in eliminating any inadequacies as a result.

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