Human body is dependent on a constant supply of minerals to ensure its proper functioning. If the body gets an inadequate supply, the result can be the appearance of a mineral deficiency in which the levels of certain mineral(s) in the body are below the norm. Te common forms of deficiency are iron, iodine, and calcium deficiency, although humans can also lack many other elements including zinc, chromium, fluorine, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, and copper (Adiware Party LTD, 2006; Merck, 2006). Different types of deficiencies lead to different manifestations, although all are negatively reflected on human health and can lead to many diseases.
This frequent type of deficiency is most readily reflected in the state of one’s blood as iron is the element responsible for its functioning. In fact, it is “most common nutritional deficiency in the world” (Merck, 2006). Since iron forms part of haemoglobin and some other enzymes, lack of iron disrupts the normal process of oxygen transportation, reducing the amount of red cells in blood. This in turn leads to anemia that leads to fatigue and weakness.
The causes of iron deficiency can be different. It is found in women during pregnancy, can be the result of insufficient iron intake because of vegetarianism or other specific features of the diet, be consequence of serious blood loss or blood donation, and result from malabsorption syndrome (Adiware Party LTD, 2006). In most cases, the most readily available treatment includes food supplements that include iron to restore its levels in the body.
Iron deficiency is especially harmful to young children who are most negatively affected by its consequences. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 2004 global progress report named “Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency” states that it “impairs intellectual development in young children, thus lowering national IQs” and cites this problem as a serious challenge to the potential of developing nations (Reinhardt, 2004, p. 51). Research has also found that “iron deficiencies appear to compromise children’s socioemotional development” (Eamon, 2001, p. 256).
This is another serious challenge to health that especially affects the thyroid gland requiring iodine. When a human body does not contain enough iodine, this can “lead to goitre, a swollen neck due to a swollen thyroid gland” (Adiware Party LTD, 2006). A person can become deficient in iodine when daily intake is less than < 20 µg/day (Merck, 2006). In most developed nations the problem of iodine intake because of addition of iodine to regular salt.
Iodine deficiency is a serious threat to the normal course of pregnancy as it “causes mental impairment in as many as 20 million babies each year” according to UNICEF’s report (Reinhardt, 2004, p. 51). The reason is that lack of iodine in children causes endemic cretinism, although this defect arises because of a combination between maternal deficiency and genetic makeup. For adults, this deficiency is not harmless either as it leads to endemic myxedema.
Calcium is vital for maintaining strong bone structures, preserving healthy teeth, and effective muscle contraction. Therefore, its lack leads to weaker bones, increasing the likelihood of fractures. Muscles get affected, too, as they can begin to ache and to twitch. Cramps are also a common symptom of calcium deficiency, as it osteoporosis.
Calcium absorption is stimulated by vitamin D, so its concentration in the body is essential for preserving proper levels of calcium. Women are likely to be deficient in calcium after the menopause when their bodies experience a drop in the levels of estrogen, the female hormone essential to the proper absorption of calcium (Adiware Party LTD, 2006).
Mineral Deficiencies Are a Serious Challenge to Human Health
At the start of the 21st century, mineral deficiencies remain a serious threat in many nations where malnutrition is widespread. The connection between mineral and vitamin deficiency gives this problem a social dimension. Since mineral deficiencies can have extremely negative effects on the development of children’s brains, the persistence of the problem can depress intellectual potential in whole nations and thus negatively affect prospects of their progress. The problem of containing deficiencies is exacerbated by lack of education and diagnosis facilities. UNICEF’s report “calls for the food industry to develop, market and distribute low-cost fortified food products and supplements, and for governments to create a supportive legislative environment and standards, enabling for the control of these deficiencies through public education and legislation” (Reinhardt, 2004, p. 51).
This problem has not been fully solved in developed nations either where they can trigger serious problems. Thus, lack of elements such as chromium, magnesium, and potassium can lead to “hyperglycemia in gestational diabetic women because each of these four deficiencies causes impairment of pancreatic insulin production” (Jovanovic-Peterson, Peterson, 1996). Millions of people experience health problems that are rooted in mineral deficiencies and can be corrected with proper treatment or increase intake of the element the person lacks. Therefore, proper nourishment has utmost importance as a human being should receive an appropriate quantity of all necessary elements. In some cases, the absorption process has to be addressed or other causes that lead to reduction of the element in the body.
In my opinion, mineral deficiencies should be corrected through proper diet. Since it is linked to poverty, society’s efforts should be directed at eradication of dire poverty that seriously affects people’s diets and leads to malnutrition. These problems leave children especially vulnerable, leading to diseases in adult age. Therefore, children should be tested for intake of minerals in a timely and effective way so that problems can be spotted early and addressed through a balanced diet. For adults, learning about mineral deficiencies and their negative effects is an additional reason to give up extreme dieting that exclude necessary foods. A diet should become the focus of attention when a person is approaching old age or suffers from a disease. Attention to one’s health will be rewarded, eliminating deficiencies and leading to a balanced composition of vital organs.
Adiware Party LTD. (2006). Mineral Deficiency. Retrieved June 13, 2006, from http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/m/mineral/intro.htm
Eamon, M.K. (2001). The Effects of Poverty on Children’s Socioemotional Development: An Ecological Systems Analysis. Social Work 46(3), 256.
Jovanovic-Peterson, L., & Peterson C.M. (1996). Vitamin and mineral deficiencies which may predispose to glucose intolerance of pregnancy. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 15(1), 14-20.
Merck & Co., Inc. The Merck Manual, Sec. 1, Ch. 4. Retrieved June 13, 2006, from http://www.merck.com/mrkshared/mmanual/section1/chapter4/4a.jsp
Reinhardt, E. (2004, September-November). Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency: A Global Progress Report. UN Chronicle 41(3), p. 51.