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You Ask, I Answer: Nutrient Deficiencies in the USA?

Posted Nov 13 2009 10:00pm

b3f7589ceff2 I’m confused.

I’ve heard some nutritionists say that nutrient deficiencies among Americans are rare due to the sheer amount of food we eat.

But, I have also heard reports that ”most Americans don’t get enough potassium” or “30% of women in the U.S. don’t have an adequate intake of calcium”.

So, which is it?

– Corey Clark
(Location Unknown)

Wonderful — and very insightful — question.

Both statements you’ve heard are accurate — and one does not cancel the other out!

The answer to this puzzle?  Nutrient deficiencies and insufficient intakes are two very different concepts that exist on a continuum.

A nutrient deficiency is tangible.  It has specific physical and/or biochemical symptoms which can be explicitly corrected by consuming adequate amounts of that nutrient (think Vitamin C and scurvy, or iron and iron-deficiency anemia).

Although insufficient intakes of nutrients — which are much more common — often increase one’s risk of developing certain conditions and diseases, they do not clinically manifest themselves like deficiencies.

Let’s go back to the vitamin C example.  Someone with an insufficient intake of vitamin C might have a more vulnerable immune system, but not have such a low intake that they develop scurvy.

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