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9 Common Vitamin Deficiencies and What to Do About Them

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about vitamins, vitamin deficiencies and what you should do if you find out you're deficient in something. To help clear up the confusion, Insider talks about nine common vitamin deficiencies and how to treat them. The deficiencies include iron, vitamins D, B-12, B-2 and K-2, calcium, potassium, magnesium and folate.

 

Vitamin

While the article’s photo suggests that supplementation is one way to correct a deficiency, as it mentions within the text, the best way to get your vitamins is through healthy foods or, in the case of vitamin D, from the sun itself. You can get vitamin B-12 from eggs, meat, liver, shellfish and milk. For B-2, be sure to include the same foods in your diet, along with green vegetables.

The other vitamins that you may be deficient in include:

Vitamin D3Vitamin D3 is a powerhouse for your heart and immune system. A growing body of evidence shows that it plays a crucial role in disease prevention and maintaining optimal health.

There are about 30,000 genes in your body, and vitamin D affects nearly 3,000 of them, as well as vitamin D receptors located throughout your body. According to one large-scale study, optimal Vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by as much as 60 percent.

Keeping your levels optimized can help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate and skin cancers. Remember, though, that vitamin D works synergistically with K-2 and magnesium. Magnesium, especially, is an important component and, without sufficient amounts of it, your body cannot properly utilize the vitamin D you’re taking as a supplement.

While the optimal rations between vitamin D and K-2 are yet to be determined, taking somewhere between 100 to 200 micrograms (mcg) of K2 is beneficial. Telltale signs of vitamin K2 insufficiency include osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.

Folate This important nutrient plays a critical role in DNA methylation and being deficient in folate during the first trimester of your pregnancy is a major risk factor for neural tube defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly and exencephaly.

Folate also may lower your risk for cancer, but don’t mistake folic acid — an ingredient often listed as a “fortification” in processed foods — for folate. If for no other reason, while studies confirm folate appears protective against breast and uterine cancer, folic acid fortification of foods has been linked to an increase in colorectal cancer since its introduction.

One of the reasons folic acid does not have the same effects as folate has to do with the way it's metabolized in your body.

Naturally occurring folate is metabolized to tetrahydrofolate (THF) in your small intestine. Synthetic folic acid, meanwhile, is initially reduced and methylated in your liver, where the enzyme dihydrofolate (DHF) reductase is required for the conversion of the folic acid into the active THF form your body can use (THF can even cross the blood brain barrier, which helps explain folate's usefulness against neurological disorders).

Iron Iron is one of the most common nutritional supplements, but the truth is iron overload is more common than an iron deficiency. This may be because so many processed foods and vitamins are fortified with iron.

But, while iron is necessary for biological function, when you get too much, it can do tremendous harm. For example, if left untreated, high iron can contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurogenerative disorders, including gout.

Unfortunately, the first thing people think about when they hear "iron" is anemia, or iron deficiency. This points out the necessity of making sure that you get your iron levels checked at least once a year and, specifically, to not supplement with iron unless your doctor indicates that you are iron deficient.

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