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Deficiency Diseases

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What is Deficiency Disease?

A deficiency disease can be defined as a disease that is caused by the lack of essential nutrients or dietary elements such as vitamins and minerals in the human body. A well-balanced diet is critical to a person's overall health. Any dietary imbalance could result in an excess or insufficient consumption of particular nutrients. A deficiency disease can result from a lack of a certain nutrient. Deficiency disease is a disease caused by a lack of essential dietary elements and especially a vitamin or mineral. A balanced diet focuses on providing the body with all of the nutrients it requires. It comprises macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fat along with micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Hence, by eating a balanced diet, deficiency diseases can be prevented.

Deficiency disease examples: Vitamin B1 deficiency causes beriberi, lack of iron in the body can lead to anaemia.

Vitamin Deficiency

It is a condition of a long-term lack of vital amines in our body. If there is less intake of vitamins then the condition is called primary deficiency and if the reason behind deficiency is malabsorption of vitamins due to a disorder, it is called a secondary deficiency. Vitamin deficiency can result in diseases such as beriberi and pellagra. Vitamin deficiency is still a problem all over the world. They are typically clinically unnoticed unless they are severe, but even modest deficiency can have serious implications. Vitamin deficits affect people of all ages, and they frequently coexist with mineral deficiencies (zinc, iron, and iodine). Because of their relatively high demands for these compounds and susceptibilities to their absence, pregnant and lactating women, as well as young children, are the most vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies. Infectious disease, death, anaemia, death during pregnancy or childbirth, and impaired mental and physical development are among them. Vitamin deficiency has consequences because of the biochemical roles they perform. 

Mineral Deficiency

Minerals are nutrients that the human body needs in order to function properly. A mineral deficiency occurs when the body doesn’t obtain or absorb the required amount of a mineral. It can happen slowly over time for various reasons. These can be an increased need for minerals in the body, a lack of minerals in the diet, etc. The deficiency of minerals can lead to several health problems. For example, deficiency of iron can result in anaemia. The human body requires different amounts of each mineral to stay healthy. Specific requirements are mentioned in daily allotment (RDA).

The RDA is the average quantity that satisfies the nutritional needs of 97 percent of healthy persons. They can be found in foods, mineral supplements, and food products enriched with additional minerals.

A deficiency occurs over time and can be caused by a number of circumstances. A greater requirement for the mineral, a scarcity of the mineral in the diet, or difficulty absorbing the mineral through food are some of the most common explanations.

Mineral shortages can lead to brittle bones, fatigue, and a compromised immune system, among other problems.

Types of Deficiency Diseases:

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that our bodies require in order to develop and function properly. A, C, D, E, and K, as well as the B vitamins thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxal (B6), cobalamin (B12), biotin, and folate/folic acid, are all known vitamins. Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, sulphur, cobalt, copper, fluoride, manganese, and selenium are all vital minerals for good health. Deficiency diseases can be categorised into two types.

  • Vitamin deficiency diseases 

  • Mineral deficiency diseases

Examples of vitamin Deficiency Diseases:

  • Water-Soluble Vitamin Deficiencies:

The water-soluble vitamins include ascorbic acid (vitamin C), thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine), folacin, vitamin B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid.



Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Severe deficiency causes Beriberi with symptoms being weight loss, impaired sensory perception, weakness, and pain in limbs. Some forms of beriberi are Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

The deficiency of this vitamin causes angular cheilitis which causes inflammation at mouth corners, chapped, and cracked lips. It can also cause anaemia.

Niacin (Vitamin B3) 

Causes Pellagra which is a life-threatening disease. The symptoms are diarrhoea, dermatitis, and dementia. If not treated at an early stage, the patient may die. 

Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) 

Vitamin B5 deficiency is rare and the symptoms are fatigue, apathy, and irritability.

Vitamin B6 

End-stage kidney diseases such as celiac disease, Crohn disease, etc. The symptoms include microcytic anaemia depression, dermatitis, and electroencephalographic abnormalities

Biotin (Vitamin B7) 

The deficiency affects the growth of hair and deteriorates skin health. Increased urinary excretion of 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid is a sign of biotin deficiency.

Folate (Vitamin B9)

It is very common and the deficiency is associated with neural tube defects in infants. Cerebral folate deficiency is a rare form of folate deficiency where the vitamin concentrations in the brain are low despite normal blood flow.

Vitamin B12 

Deficiency of this disease leads to pernicious anaemia, megaloblastic anaemia, methylmalonic acidemia, etc.

Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Deficiency results in Scurvy and the symptoms are bleeding gums, swelling in joints and skin spots.

  • Fat-Soluble Vitamin Deficiencies:

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are known as fat-soluble vitamins because they are soluble in organic solvents and absorb and transport in the same way that fats do.



Retinol (Vitamin A)

The deficiency causes night blindness or nyctalopia and keratomalacia. If not treated it can lead to permanent blindness. The deficiency also weakens the immune system of our body. 

Calciferol (Vitamin D)

It causes a disease known as rickets. The symptoms are decaying of teeth, weakening of bones, and joints.

Phylloquinone (Vitamin K)

The deficiency of vitamin K leads to decreased coagulation of blood. The signs and symptoms are bleeding gums, bruising, nosebleeds, and heavy menstrual bleeding in women.

Tocopherol (Vitamin E)

The major problems associated are muscle and nerve weakness. The signs are hyporeflexia, distal muscle weakness, decreased vibratory sense, neurological symptoms etc.

  • Mineral Deficiency Diseases List :

Mineral examples are Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese copper, Iodine, chromium.




The deficiency of calcium leads to decreased calcium density in bones which results in a condition called osteopenia. This condition increases the risk of bone fractures. Severe calcium can also cause kidney failure. The symptoms are cramping of muscles, fatigue, poor appetite, numbness, etc.

Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency in the body results in anaemia. The symptoms include feeling weak and tired.  Children exhibit signs of slow cognitive and social development.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is uncommon. However, in case the human body has low levels of magnesium it can cause weakness, nausea, vomiting, etc. If untreated, other symptoms such as seizures, numbness, abnormal rhythms of the heart can develop.

Potassium deficiency

The common cause of potassium deficiency is excessive fluid loss which can happen through vomiting, kidney disease, and the use of certain diuretic medicines.


Zinc deficiency causes loss of taste, smell, and appetite. It can decrease the function of the immune system and growth rate. 


The deficiency of this mineral can result in goitre. The major sign is a swelling in the base of your neck. The symptoms include difficulty in swallowing and breathing, hoarseness in voice, coughing, etc.


Sodium deficiency is also known as hyponatremia and it arises from excessive fluid loss. It generally occurs due to severe dehydration and prolonged deficiency can lead to heart diseases. 


The deficiency of phosphorus leads to the formation of underdeveloped teeth and bones.


Manganese is important for bone growth and cartilage development. A deficiency can lead to teeth grinding, convulsions, muscle contractions, vision and hearing problems in children. It causes hypertension, atherosclerosis and heart diseases in adults 

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FAQs on Deficiency Diseases

1. How Can We Prevent Deficiency Diseases?

Vitamin and mineral deficiency diseases can be easily prevented if we maintain a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. This can easily be achieved if we follow some simple steps:

  • Include vitamin and mineral-rich food in the diet

  • Eat simple and wholesome food like soybeans, pulses etc.

  • Vitamin in food denatures if the food is overcooked, so avoid prolonged cooking.

  • Include mineral and vitamin supplements in the diet

  • Food fortification, which is a process of adding micronutrients to food, is a health policy that is followed in countries where a large chunk of the population is malnourished. It is carried out to prevent deficiency diseases on a large scale in these areas.

  • Genetically engineered products are also being used to prevent deficiency diseases.

2. Name Diseases Caused By the Deficiency of Vitamin C

The deficiency of vitamin C results in a rare disease called Scurvy. The symptoms are anaemia, exhaustion, and spontaneous bleeding, debility, pain in limbs, and swelling in some parts of the body. Scurvy occurs when plasma concentration falls below 0.2 mg/dL. It can be treated with oral or intravenous Vitamin C supplements. Other diseases of vitamin C deficiency include gum disease and connective tissue problems.

3. List 10 Nutritional Deficiency Diseases

Nutritional Deficiency Diseases:  Diseases caused by the deficiency of vitamins and minerals

Deficient Nutrient






Vitamin B1


Vitamin C




Vitamin B3


Vitamin A

Night blindness



Vitamin A