Mineral Deficiency HealthQM

What Are the Most Common Mineral Deficiencies?

Deficiencies in iron, zinc, and iodine are the most prominent as they have important negative impacts on public health, while other deficiencies, such as magnesium, calcium, fluoride, and selenium contribute to the health burden [1].

1. Iron deficiency

Iron is an essential compound of hemoglobin that is involved in the blood transport of oxygen from the lungs to tissues and organs.

Although the body has reserves in iron, a deficiency in iron supply through diet depletes these reserves resulting in anemia [2].

Anemia is due to the incapacity of the body, and specifically the bone marrow, to produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells transport of oxygen, resulting in microcytic and hypochromic anemia.

  • What Causes Iron Deficiency?

Blood Loss

Rapid blood loss through injury, surgery, or childbirth, significantly depletes iron reserves as new blood, and therefore, new hemoglobin is required to compensate for the blood loss.

Chronic blood loss can also be a result of nosebleeds, hemorrhoids, ulcers, menstruation, intestinal cancers.

It is estimated that iron deficiency anemia affects more than 1.2 billion individuals worldwide [3].


Any alterations of the function of the intestines such as inflammation (Enteritis), can results in the malabsorption of nutrients, including iron.

  • Iron Rich Food

To prevent iron deficiency, there are foods that are rich in iron including dark-green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat, fish, tofu, eggs, brown rice, and dried fruit. Dietary iron supplements are also commercially available.

2. Zinc deficiency

Zinc is an essential factor for many enzymatic reactions and is involved in the synthesis of nucleic acid synthesis (DNA and RNA).

It is also necessary for the growth and maintenance of healthy hair and skin.

Zinc deficiency results in slower growth and development of infants and children, loss of appetite, hair loss, loss of smell, altered immune response, and delayed wound healing.

  • What Causes Zinc Deficiency?

In addition to dietary causes, alcoholism, exercise, and diarrhea have been associated with zinc deficiency.

It can also be caused by a rare hereditary disorder known as acrodermatitis enteropathica that affects the mucosal membrane of the intestine.

  • Zinc Rich Food

To prevent zinc deficiency, there are foods that are rich in iron such as oysters, beef, lobster, pork, cereals, crab, chicken, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), cashews, chickpeas, and oatmeal. Dietary zinc supplements are also commercially available.

3. Iodine deficiency

Iodine is essential for the synthesis of the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are necessary for growth, cellular metabolism, and for the regulation of body temperature. 

Iodine deficiency results in reduced production of T3 and T4 resulting in a condition known as hypothyroidism characterized by an enlargement of the thyroid gland and the appearance of goiter.

Hypothyroidism leads to symptoms such as impaired mental function, hoarse voice, tiredness, dry skin, a gain of weight, aches, and intolerance to cold.

  • What Causes Iodine Deficiency?

Insufficient Intake of Iodized Salt, veganism (e.g., no dairy products and eggs), pregnancy, living in regions that have low iodine soils can all contribute to iodine deficiency.

  • Iodine Rich Food

To prevent iodine deficiency, there are foods that are rich in iodine such as seaweed, bread, cod, oysters, dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), eggs, shrimps, and tuna.

4. Calcium deficiency

Calcium is essential for the contraction of muscles, the formation of bones and teeth, the regulation of cardiac rhythm, coagulation, neurotransmission, and several metabolic and enzymatic reactions.

The most known effect of calcium deficiency is osteoporosis associated with the reduction of bone strength.

  • What Causes Calcium Deficiency?

Lactose intolerance individuals can result in decreased consumption of dairy products that are rich in calcium. In post-menopausal women, the decrease in estrogen level reduces the absorption of calcium and increases its mobilization from the bones and its elimination through urine.

  • Calcium Rich Food

To prevent calcium deficiency, there are foods that are rich in calcium such as dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, mozzarella), Tofu, soymilk, sardines, salmon, soybeans, spinach, turnip greens, kale, and beans 

5. Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is necessary for the function of the nervous system and muscles and is involved in the production of energy (ATP).

It is also involved in the regulation of blood glucose, blood pressure, and the metabolism of calcium and potassium.

Deficiency in magnesium can lead to tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.

A severe deficiency manifests with cramps, numbness, seizures, and cardiovascular symptoms. If intreated magnesium deficiency can cause hypocalcemia and chondrocalcinosis.

  • What Causes Magnesium Deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency can be due to chronic alcoholism, gastrointestinal diseases (e.g., malabsorption), poorly controlled diabetes, and certain types of medications such as antibiotics, diuretics, chemotherapeutic agents, and proton-pump inhibitors [3].

  • Magnesium Rich Food

To prevent magnesium deficiency, there are foods that are rich in magnesium including green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, nuts, seeds (chia and pumpkin seeds), legumes, and whole grains. Dietary magnesium supplements are also commercially available.

6. Selenium deficiency

Selenium is essential for the metabolism of thyroid hormones, DNA synthesis, protection from infection and oxidative damage (antioxidant), and for reproduction.

Selenium deficiency leads to the development of a viral disease in children and young women, known as Keshan disease, that is characterized by cardiomyopathy [4].

A combination between selenium deficiency and iodine deficiency can cause goiter and hypothyroidism.

  • What Causes Selenium Deficiency?

Selenium deficiency mostly affects people living in selenium-deficient regions and people who are under kidney dialysis.

  • Selenium Rich Food

To prevent selenium deficiency, there are foods that are rich in magnesium include such as Brazil nuts, organ meats, and seafood.

7. Fluoride deficiency

Fluoride is naturally found in the body as calcium fluoride and is required for new bone formation and for preventing teeth decay.

Fluoride deficiency can lead to tooth decay and fracture of bones.

  • What Causes Fluoride Deficiency?

Although fluoride is sufficiently available through food products made with fluoridated tap water and fluoridated tap water, adequate intake of fluoride can reduce teeth decay (caries) and bone fractures.

  • Fluoride Rich Food

Foods that are rich in fluoride include black tea, raisins, wine, fluoridated water, lamb, and carrots.


Iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, magnesium, selenium, and fluoride are essential for the function of the bones, muscles, heart, and brain. They are also involved in vital metabolic reactions as coenzymes. Any deficiency in one of these minerals can have severe health consequences such as diseases that affect both adults and developing embryos.

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