The 26 Essential Vitamins and Minerals - Deficiencies and Toxicity
On this page we have outlined some of the problems that can occur if you don't get enough of the vitamins and minerals included in Huel in your daily diet or, in some cases, if you get too much of them by using supplements.
- It is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death.
- A serious problem in more of half of all countries, though it mainly affects poorer regions.
- In pregnant women, vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and increase risk of maternal mortality.
- Vitamin A is an essential nutrient, and it’s particularly good for skin and for healthy eyes.
- Up to a quarter of the population has low levels of vitamin D in their blood according to UK government figures.
- Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.
- A lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets in children and weakness, aches and pains in adults where bones don't have enough calcium called osteomalacia.
- You are unlikely to have a deficiency of vitamin E, as any excess is stored in your body naturally.
- But it is important to have because it is an antioxidant, helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, whilst also helping strengthen the immune system.
- There is also a suggestion that vitamin E may help slow the growth of dementia which is currently being researched.
- Vitamin K has several important functions. For example, it's needed for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds to heal properly. There is also some evidence to suggest it helps keep bones healthy.
- Not very much vitamin K is needed, so deficiencies are rare, but a healthy balanced diet necessary to ensure you have enough.
- Often seen as the most famous of the deficiencies, as a lack of vitamin C causes Scurvy.
- Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is vital for the body, because it's needed to make collagen. Without vitamin C, collagen can't be replaced and the different types of tissue breakdown, leading to the symptoms of scurvy. These include:
- - Muscle and joint pain
- - Tiredness
- - Appearance of red dots on the skin
- - Bleeding and swelling of the gums
- Vitamin C is also an antioxident helping to prevent against cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
- You'd have to take a lot of vitamin C from supplements to overdose, but very high levels over long periods can lead to kidney stones.
- Thiamin (vitamin B1) helps the body's cells convert carbohydrate into energy. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body, especially the brain and nervous system. Thiamin also plays a role in muscle contraction and conduction of nerve signals.
- A lack of thiamin is called beriberi and can cause weakness, fatigue, psychosis and nerve damage.
- Whilst it is not very common, alcoholics are most at risk of thiamin deficiency
- Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2.
- It is important for keeping skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy, helping the body release energy from the food we eat.
- A deficiency of riboflavin can cause a sore throat, cheilosis (lesions on the lips), angular stomatitis (lesions on the angles of the mouth), glossitis (fissured and magenta-coloured tongue), corneal vascularisation, dyssebacia (red, scaly, greasy patches on the nose, eyelids, scrotum, and labia), and normocytic, normochromic anaemia.
- Niacin is also known as vitamin B3.
- Niacin is important for helping the body to release energy from the foods we eat, and helping to keep the nervous systems and skin healthy.
- Taking too much niacin for too long can cause liver damage.
- Vitamin B6 allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food, helping to form haemoglobin – the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.
- Thyroid UK notes that “without this vitamin the thyroid cannot utilise its iodine raw material efficiently to make the hormones. This vitamin is needed even more by an overactive thyroid. Muscle weakness is very common in people with an overactive thyroid and in those who are also lacking in B6.”
- Long term high doses of vitamin B6 can be toxic and may result in nerve damage that may eventually be irreversible.
- Folic Acid works with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells, whilst also helping to reduce the risk of central nervous system defects, such as spina bifida in unborn babies, which is why maintaining a healthy amount of folic acid is important during pregnancy.
- A lack of folic acid can lead to folate deficiency anemia, which causes tiredness (caused by anaemia), weakness, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and weight loss. A deficiency of folic acid can also cause headaches, heart palpitations, a sore tongue and behavioural disorders.
- Vitamin B12 has similar roles to folic acid within the body, helping make red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy, releasing energy from the food we eat.
- A lack of B12 causes pernicious anaemia with the symptoms of extreme tiredness, lack of energy, pins and needles (paraesthesia), sore and red tongue, muscle weakness, depression, problems with memory, understanding and judgement.
- Pantothenic acid is also known as vitamin B5.
- Pantothenic acid has several functions, such as helping to release energy from the food we eat.
- A lack of pantothenic acid can cause fatigue, chronic stress and depression.
- Biotin is also known as Vitamin B7.
- Biotin is essential for the metabolism of fat and only a tiny amount is required.
- Choline may be a non-essential B vitamin, but it is important for cell membranes and for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which has a role in memory and muscle control.
- However, choline doses higher than the usual maximum recommended amount are associated with several negative effects including fishy body odor, increased perspiration and salivation, dizziness, vomiting and low blood pressure.
- Potassium is important for controlling the balance of fluids in the body as well as correct functioning of the heart muscle. It also helps nerves and muscles communicate nerves and muscles communicate with each other.
- Taking too much potassium from supplements or otherwise can cause stomach pain, nausea and diarrhoea.
Sodium & Chloride
- Most chloride is gained from salt (sodium chloride), so deficiencies are rare. However, consuming too much salt is very common due to the abundance of salt in everyday food.
- Sodium and chloride are electrolytes required in small amounts to help keep the level of fluids in the body balanced. Chloride helps the body to digest food because it's an essential component of the fluids in the stomach and intestines.
- Having too much salt is linked to an increase in blood pressure (hypertension), which raises your risk of a stroke and heart attack.
- Calcium is the most abundent mineral in our body as it's the major constituent of bones and teeth.
- Calcium is also required for muscle contraction and short term deficiency can cause muscle cramps, stiffness and poor mobility.
- It's important to have a good calcium intake in the bone-building years which are as a baby and again from adolescence to about 30 years of age; especially important in females. Insufficient calcium during these periods can lead to brittle-bone disease (osteoporosis) when you're older where your bones break very easily. Post-menopausal women should also have a good calcium intake to help slow the rate of bone degeneration.
- Although calcium toxicity is rare, symptoms may include fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, kidney stones, constipation and spondylitis (rigidity and inflammation of the spine).
- Too much calcium can also limit iron absorption.
- Phosphorus is a mineral that helps to build strong bones and teeth and helps to release energy from food.
- Taking high doses of phosphorus supplements for a short time can cause diarrhoea or stomach pain. Taking high doses for a long time can reduce the amount of calcium in the body, which means that bones are more likely to fracture.
- Magnesium helps turn the food we eat into energy and helps to make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones that are important for bone health, work normally.
- Taking high doses of magnesium for a short time can cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping.
- Longer term high supplemental intakes can cause drops in blood pressure, slowing down of the heart beat or erratic beating, or cardiac arrest. Can also cause muscle weakness and difficulty breathing, confusion, lethargy, affect balance or even coma and death.
- Iron is an essential mineral with several important roles in the body. For example, it helps to make red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.
- A lack of iron can cause iron deficiency anaemia and is not uncommon even in the West.
- Too much can cause constipation, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children, so always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.
- Zinc helps to make new cells and enzymes, helps us process carbohydrate, fat and protein in food, and helps with the healing of wounds.
- Taking high doses of zinc reduces the amount of copper the body can absorb. This can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones.
- Too much zinc can cause vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, headaches and abdominal cramps. Taking too much in one go can lead to severe vomiting and kidney failure and possible death. Other symptoms are a weakened immune system, fatigue and UTI problems.
- Copper helps to produce red and white blood cells, and triggers the release of iron to form haemoglobin – the substance that carries oxygen around the body, and is thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and strong bones
- Taking high doses of copper could cause: stomach pain, sickness, diarrhoea and damage to liver and kidneys, if taken for a long time.
- Manganese is a trace element that helps make and activate some of the enzymes in the body.
- Taking high supplemental doses of manganese for long periods of time might cause muscle pain, nerve damage and neurological symptoms, such as fatigue and depression.
- Selenium is a trace element that plays an important role in our immune system's function and in reproduction. It is also a potent antioxidant and helps to prevent damage to cells and tissues.
- Too much selenium causes selenosis – a condition that, in its mildest form, can lead to loss of hair, skin and nails.
- Chromium is a trace element thought to influence how the hormone insulin behaves in the body. This means chromium may affect the amount of energy we get from food.
- The NHS reports there is not enough research to know for certain the long term effects of excess chromium.
- Molybdenum is a trace element that helps make and activate some of the enzymes involved in repairing and making genetic material.
- There is some evidence to suggest taking molybdenum supplements might cause joint pain.
- Iodine is involved in the synthesis of thyroid hormones. These hormones help to keep cells and the metabolic rate healthy.
- Taking high doses of iodine for long periods of time could change the way your thyroid gland works. This can lead to a wide range of different symptoms, such as weight gain.
- Similar problems can occur with deficiencies in the amount of iodine in your diet, especially if you’re pregnant.