Mineral deficiency symptoms - Mineral deficiency diseases

Jan 2014  Mineral deficiency symptoms - Mineral deficiency diseases
Deficiency of dietary minerals can lead to a plethora of diseases affecting many body organs.
'Mineral deficiency disease' can be defined as "the consequence of dearth in a dietary mineral in the body in necessary quantities for healthy bodily function". As specific minerals may serve different functions in the body, the symptoms of excess or low levels may be numerous.

Human body as well as gut bacteria can synthesize many nutrients required for the biological functions. Most of the B Vitamins are synthesized by our gut bacteria. Many amino acids and fatty acids are synthesized in biochemical processes of the body. However, all the dietary minerals are to be consumed through food or supplements. Hence, considering the nutritionally-poor fad diets we eat, the risk of having lower than normal levels of minerals in the body is increased many fold.

Causes of mineral deficiency

The symptoms and impacts may vary according to the mineral involved and the severity of the deficiency. Very rarely it is asymptomatic. As malnutrition or lack of nutrition is the major cause, the onset of nutritional dearth of two or more dietary minerals at the same time is common. Certain medications, hereditary disorders, malabsorption or diet restrictions due to the presence of another disease may also cause subnormal levels.

More than one mineral may contribute to a particular body function and a dearth of one may make the other ineffective. The excess presence of one particular element may affect the absorption or utilization of another mineral. The presence of a particular mineral may contribute to the absorption efficacy of another and sometimes lead to its toxic levels.

Food habits of a population and prevalence of non-availability of certain mineral in local food sources may also cause deficiency diseases. In such instances government programs to fortify commonly consumed food with
the missing mineral has to be taken up. The universal example is the fortification of the common salt with iodine.

Dietary mineral deficiency disease and symptoms

The symptoms connected with subnormal levels of each individual dietary mineral and the consequent diseases are briefly discussed below.

Boron is a trace dietary mineral and the amount of boron required for humans is not established. People eating food produced from boron-depleted soils are found to suffer diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis. Boron is essential for the utilization of calcium and vitamin D. Boron does not accumulate in tissues and excess of boron is excreted in the urine. * Boron rich food sources are raisins, almonds, apricots (dried), avocado and hazelnuts.

The disease of low serum calcium levels in the blood is . The symptoms include convulsions and tetany, 'pins and needles' sensation, numbness, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and muscle cramps. The causes could be low dietary calcium or low levels of vitamin D in body. Diseases like or may also give rise to low serum levels of this mineral. is a disease caused by loss of calcium from the bone irrespective of the amount of dietary mineral in take. Osteoporosis is due to excess of loss of bone mass and too little new bone is being built up.

Chlorine as chloride is an important constituent of all body secretions and excretions. The digestive gastric juice contains chlorine in the form of hydrochloric acid. Hypochloremia is the disease caused when serum levels of chloride are very low. The symptoms of chloride deficiency are loss of electrolyte balance, weakness, cramps, loss of potassium in the urine, metabolic alkalosis and low blood pressure. The problem of inadequacy of this mineral in nutrition is very rare as it is consumed as sodium chloride from many sources.

Chromium is considered as an essential trace mineral in humans. Symptoms of low levels of this mineral include severely impaired glucose tolerance, emaciation, and mental debility. Diseases like peripheral neuropathy have been observed in some patients. Chromium supplementation is believed to reduced cravings for fat and carbohydrates. In patients treated with chromium supplementation there is significant improvement in their depression. There are inconclusive results for use of the mineral in the treatment of diabetics. Chromium(III) picolinate is popular chromium supplement.

Cobalt is an essential trace mineral and is the key constituent of vitamin B12. Very low levels of cobalamin can cause severe damage to the brain and the nervous system. Symptoms of lower levels of cobalamin include dementia, weakness, mania, psychosis and the metabolic disease pernicious anemia.

The most common causes of low levels of copper in the body are malnutrition, gastric bypass surgery, malabsorption, zinc toxicity or genetic Menkes disease. Low levels of copper in diet can contribute to the development of symptoms of diseases like leukopenia, neutropenia, sensory ataxia, myelodysplasia, myelodysplasia, peripheral neuropathy and anemia. Sources of this mineral include whole grain cereals, mushrooms, spinach, legumes, oysters, liver, greens, seeds, poultry, prunes, raw cashews, raw walnuts, soybeans and barley.

Fluorine as fluoride is found in the bones and teeth. The intake of fluoride is mostly through drinking water. Diseases like dental caries and possibly osteoporosis are caused when the fluoride consumption is very low.

Iodine deficiency symptoms

Iodine is an essential trace mineral required for the function of thyroid glands. Low levels of iodine in diet leads to symptoms of diseases like goiter, cretinism, hypothyroidism and mental retardation. In the developing countries low dietary iodine is a serious public health problem. It is being overcome by fortifying common salt with iodine.

* Iron deficiency symptoms

Iron deficiency anemia is caused when there is low dietary intake of iron. This disease shows symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, irritability, restlessness and breathlessness. If the problem is not corrected it can lead to morbidity and death. Malabsorption, chronic bleeding and inadequate intake are the main reasons for low bioavailability of iron.

The symptoms associated with low dietary intake of dietary mineral are muscle weakness, hypokalemia, hypocalcemia, irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, tetany, insulin resistance and nausea.

Manganese deficiency symptoms

Low dietary intake of this mineral may cause diseases like osteoporosis, schizophrenia, diabetes and epilepsy with symptoms like joint pain, inflammation, arthritis and dermatitis.

* Molybdenum deficiency symptoms

Regular low dietary intake of this trace mineral is required for the body's enzymatic functions. Its dearth may occur in patients receiving parenteral nutrition. Significant sources of this mineral are meat products, green vegetables and cereals. Diseases like esophageal squamous cell carcinoma are observed when the mineral is absent in diet.


The dietary requirement of nickel is very low and its availability is high in food sources. Some people develop * allergy to nickel in foods. The absence of this trace mineral in the body may cause retarded growth, altered lipid levels in the blood, altered glucose levels in the blood and impairment to reproductive system.

* Phosphorus deficiency symptoms

Hypophosphatemia with low soluble (phosphate) levels in the serum is caused due to malabsorption, malnutrition and excess loss of the mineral in the urine. Low levels of this mineral in the blood causes neurological diseases and muscular and skeletal dysfunction.

* Potassium deficiency symptoms

Hypokalemia is a severe in body fluid, which may turn fatal. Low serum levels of this mineral can cause cramps, muscle weakness, alkalosis, confusion, breathlessness and arrhythmia.

Selenium is necessary for the optimal function of thyroid glands. Consuming food grown on selenium-poor soils, malabsorption, malnutrition and undergoing total parenteral nutrition may result in inadequacy of the mineral for body functions. The nutritional shortfall can be overcome by taking supplements of the trace mineral.

Hyponatremia symptoms are caused when the sodium serum levels drop below normal. As this mineral is present most of the food sources, there is rarely any nutritional shortfall. Sodium loss from the body, increase and dilution of blood volume, excessive sweating and use of anti-diuretics can cause the low serum levels of sodium. Hyponatremia causes spasms, cramps, loss of appetite, weakness, hyponatremic encephalopathy, pulmonary edema, renal failure and congestive heart failure.

* Sulfur deficiency symptoms

The amino acids cysteine and methionine contain sulfur. This mineral is found most of the food sources. Animal products, fruits, vegetables and greens are rich sources of this mineral. Sulfur is also recovered by the body during protein breakdown. Low levels of this mineral in the body can cause symptoms like muscle pain, weak muscles, impairment in protein synthesis. In human nutrition, low levels of protein consumption leads to low levels of sulfur.


Many food sources contain this trace mineral. Vanadium is required for normal growth, skeletal development and reproductive functions. The nutritional requirement of this mineral is in very small amounts. In some research studies it was found that the trace mineral stabilizes blood glucose levels in all forms of diabetes. Further reearch inputs are needed to fix the role of . It is also known to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels. Vanadyl sulfate is the most common form of vanadium supplements.

Hypozincemia is due to low levels of zinc in the body causing symptoms like diarrhea, acne, anorexia or anorexia nervosa, impaired cognitive and motor function, low testosterone production in men, psychological debilities and pneumonia. Nearly 25% of the world's population is at the risk of hypozincemia.

Inadequate dietary intake of zinc, malnutrition, malabsorption, fecal losses of zinc in diarrhea and bariatric surgery may cause inadequate levels of the trace mineral in the body. Supplementation, dietary modification, dietary diversification and food fortification by incorporating zinc additives in food can solve the inadequacy problem.

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Mineral deficiency symptoms - Mineral deficiency diseases

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