From Ronald Hoffman, MD
Last week, I shared the first nine in my list of the most common nutritional deficiencies that plague Americans. Now I’m rounding up the last nine, in an effort to keep you informed and on the lookout for potential gaps in your own nutrition.
Without further ado:
10) Choline: It’s estimated that more than 90% of Americans are not meeting the recommended daily intake of choline.
Choline is a nutrient important for liver health as well as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, essential for brain function. Choline is a contributor to methylation pathways; deficiencies in choline may cause homocysteine to soar. Pregnant women are urged to consume adequate choline to support fetal brain development.
It is found in fish, eggs and soy.
It was only in 1998 that RDIs were established for choline; many nutrition experts argue for raising thresholds for choline intake. An editorial in BMJ Nutrition urges, “More needs to be done to educate health care professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet and how to achieve this.”
11) Zinc: About 12 percent of the population in the United States is probably at risk for zinc deficiency, and perhaps as many as 40 percent of the elderly, due to inadequate dietary intake and impaired absorption of this essential nutrient, according to an Oregon State University survey.
The problem is compounded by the paucity of accurate tests for zinc status; most people haven’t been tested, and, even if they were to be routinely screened, results poorly reflect optimal zinc levels.
Zinc plays a major role in wound healing and immunity. In the elderly, its insufficiency is implicated in immunosenescence—age-related progressive immune decline. In children and adolescents, adequate zinc is essential for normal growth and sexual maturation.
12) Magnesium: Perhaps the best example of a pervasive under-recognized nutritional deficiency, estimates are that somewhere between 40-60% of Americans have inadequate magnesium levels. The imprecision is due to inconsistencies among tests; a low magnesium on a standard blood test (serum magnesium) is relatively uncommon, except in sick hospital patients. More sensitive tests like red blood cell magnesium or magnesium load tests reveal the problem to be far more extensive.