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The 26 Essential Vitamins and Minerals - Deficiencies and Toxicity

On this page we have outlined some of the problems that can occur if you don't get enough of the vitamins and minerals included in Huel in your daily diet or, in some cases, if you get too much of them by using supplements.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death[1]. It’s a serious problem in more than half of all countries, though it mainly affects poorer regions[1].

In pregnant women, vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and increases the risk of maternal mortality[1].

Vitamin A is particularly important for healthy skin and eyes[2].

Vitamin D

Up to a quarter of the population have low levels of vitamin D in their blood according to UK government figures[3]. We can synthesise vitamin D from direct sunlight[4]. A lack of vitamin D is a particular issue during the autumn and winter months due to fewer sunlight hours[4].

Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body[5].

A lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets in children and in adults, osteomalacia, characterised by weakness and aches and pains because the bones don’t have enough calcium[3].

Vitamin E

You are unlikely to have a deficiency of vitamin E, as any excess is stored in your body naturally[6].

However, meeting the daily recommendations is important because it is an antioxidant. An antioxidant prevents oxidation and the subsequent damage it can cause, for example in the form of free radicals[7]. Vitamin E is involved in maintaining healthy skin and regulating and strengthening the immune response[8].

Vitamin K

Vitamin K has several important functions. For instance, it’s needed for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds to heal properly[9]. Vitamin K also works with vitamin D to regulate calcium in the body and so plays a role in bone health[9].

The body only needs a little vitamin K, so deficiencies are rare, but a healthy balanced diet is necessary to ensure you have enough[10].

You can find out more about vitamin K2 in our article here.

Vitamin C

A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy[11].

Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is vital for the body because it’s needed to make collagen[12]. Without vitamin C, collagen can’t be replaced and the body’s tissues break down, leading to the symptoms of scurvy. These include[13]:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Tiredness
  • Appearance of red dots on the skin
  • Bleeding and swelling of the gums

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant and regenerates other molecules such as vitamin E so they can be used as antioxidants multiple times[12].

You’d have to take a lot of vitamin C from supplements to reach the safe upper limit, but very high levels over long periods of time may lead to kidney stones in at-risk individuals[14].

You can find out more about vitamin C in our article here.

Thiamin

Thiamin (vitamin B1) is important for energy metabolism, particularly carbohydrate metabolism[15]. It’s also key for muscle contractions and the conduction of nerve signals[15].

Thiamin deficiency causes beriberi disease and can cause weakness, fatigue, psychosis and nerve damage[16].

Whilst it’s not very common, alcoholics are most at risk of beriberi[16].

Riboflavin

Riboflavin (vitamin B2), like thiamin is involved in energy metabolism. Additionally, riboflavin keeps the skin, eyes and nervous system healthy[17].

Dietary deficiency of riboflavin (ariboflavinosis) can cause several symptoms such as a sore throat; cheilosis (lesions on the lips); normocytic, normochromic anaemia; and angular stomatitis (lesions on the angles of the mouth)[18]. Without riboflavin several other vitamins such as folate can’t be metabolised, and so riboflavin deficiency often occurs with other vitamin deficiencies[19].

Niacin

Niacin (vitamin B3) is the general name for both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide/niacinamide.

Again, niacin is important for helping the body to release energy from the foods we eat. It also ensures a proper functioning nervous system and liver[20].

Taking too much niacin is only really possible from supplements, not food, which if taken for too long at high doses can cause liver damage[21].

Vitamin B6

Commonly referred to as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is actually a group of six compounds. Vitamin B6 has a wide variety of functions and is particularly involved in protein metabolism[22]. Vitamin B6 is a key component in haemoglobin formation – the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body[23].

Vitamin B6 is crucial for producing thyroid hormone in tandem with iodine[24]. An overactive thyroid will require more vitamin B6, and so muscle weakness is very common in people with this condition [A1] due to a lack of vitamin B6[24].

Long-term high doses of vitamin B6 can be toxic and may result in nerve damage. This can become irreversible if this occurs for more than a few months[23].

Folate

Folate, or folic acid (also known as vitamin B9), works with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells[25]. Folate also helps to reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies, which is why maintaining a healthy amount is important during pregnancy[26].

Because of its role in red blood cell formation a deficiency can lead to folate deficiency anaemia, which causes tiredness, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, heart palpitations and behavioural disorders[27].

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, otherwise known as cobalamin, has similar roles to folate within the body, helping make red blood cells and playing roles in brain health and DNA synthesis[28].

A lack of B12 can cause the same symptoms as folate deficiency leading to vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia like pernicious anaemia[27].

Pantothenic Acid

Pantothenic acid is also known as vitamin B5. Pantothenic acid, like all the B vitamins, is involved in releasing energy from food, particularly fatty acids[29].

A lack of pantothenic acid can cause fatigue, chronic stress and depression although it’s difficult to determine the symptoms because it isn’t common and often occurs with other deficiencies[30].

Biotin

Biotin is also known as Vitamin B7.

It’s required for the metabolism of all three macronutrients[31]. Only small amounts are required in the diet as our gut microbiota can produce biotin for the body to use[32].

Choline

Choline may be a non-essential B vitamin, but it is important for cell membranes and for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which has a role in memory and muscle control[33].

A lack of choline is unlikely, but it can cause muscle damage and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)[34].

Potassium

Potassium is a key electrolyte and so is important for controlling the balance of fluids in the body[35]. It also plays a critical role in nerve transmission and muscle contractions, particularly the heart[35].

Taking too much potassium from supplements can cause stomach pain and diarrhea. High potassium levels may also be the result of kidney disease[36].

Sodium & Chloride

Most chloride is gained from salt (sodium chloride), so deficiencies are rare. However, consuming too much salt is very common due to the abundance of salt in everyday food.

Sodium and chloride are electrolytes that help keep the level of fluids in the body balanced. Sodium also works with potassium in nerve transmissions[37], while chloride helps the body to digest food because it’s an essential component of the fluids in the stomach[38].

Consuming excessive amounts of salt is linked to an increase in blood pressure (hypertension), which raises your risk of having a stroke or heart attack[39].

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body as it’s a major constituent of bones and teeth.

Calcium is required for muscle contraction, and short-term deficiency may cause muscle cramps, stiffness and poor mobility[40].

It’s important to have a good calcium intake in the bone-building years, which are as a baby and again from adolescence to about 30 years of age, especially so for females[41]. Insufficient calcium during these periods can lead to brittle-bone disease (osteoporosis) when you’re older where your bones break very easily due to the slow loss of bone mass[42].

Although calcium toxicity is rare, acute symptoms may include fatigue, muscle weakness, kidney stones and, constipation while long-term excessive calcium intake may increase the risk of developing several diseases[43]. Too much calcium can also limit iron absorption[44].

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral that helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth in conjunction with calcium[45]. Phosphorus also helps release energy from food[46].

Acute high doses of phosphorus supplements can cause diarrhea and stomach pain[45]. Taking high doses for a long time in the absence of adequate calcium intake can increase bone fracture risk[47].

Magnesium

Magnesium is important for energy regulation, muscle and, nerve function[48].

Taking high doses of magnesium for a short time can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping[49].

Iron

Iron is an essential mineral with several important roles in the body. Its most well-known role is as a key component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body[50].

Iron deficiency, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies globally[51]. It is a particular issue for menstruating women due to monthly blood loss[50].

Excessive iron intake in one sitting can cause constipation, nausea and vomiting, especially if food is not eaten at the same time[52].

You can find out more about iron in our article here.

Zinc

Zinc plays roles in the immune system, including wound healing, and growth and development[53].

Zinc deficiency affects an estimated two billion people[54]. In children, this can cause growth retardation and an impaired immune system resulting in an increased risk of infections[53].

Taking high doses of zinc over a long period reduces the amount of copper that the body can absorb. This can lead to anemia and the weakening of bones[55].

You can find out more about zinc in our article here.

Copper

Copper plays a vital role in the immune system through antioxidant defense and its involvement in white blood cell production[56]. It’s also needed for iron metabolism and, therefore, the formation of hemoglobin[57].

Both copper deficiency and toxicity are relatively rare[58]. Taking high doses of copper can cause stomach pain, diarrhea and nausea[57].

Manganese

Manganese is a trace element that is involved in the metabolism of food to produce energy[59]. It also has pro- and antioxidant activities[60].

Manganese toxicity is partly attributable to its prooxidant activity, which can cause oxidative stress that the body can’t cope with[61]. Toxicity via ingestion is very rare compared to inhalation and is only likely to occur by consuming supplements over a long period of time[60].

Selenium

Selenium is a trace element that plays an important role in our immune system’s function and is also a potent antioxidant helping to prevent damage to cells and tissues[62].

Too much selenium over a prolonged period causes selenosis. Symptoms can range from hair and nail loss to skin rashes and nervous system abnormalities[63].

Chromium

Chromium is a trace element that appears to aid the action of insulin[64]. As a result, it’s important for carbohydrate metabolism and is thought to play a role in type 1 and type 2 diabetes[65].

The NHS reports there is not enough research to know for certain the long-term effects of excess chromium intake[66].

Molybdenum

Molybdenum is a trace element that helps make and activate some of the enzymes involved in detoxification and repairing and making genetic material[67].

There is some evidence to suggest taking molybdenum supplements might cause joint pain although the toxicity of molybdenum appears to be relatively low[68].

Iodine

Iodine is involved in the synthesis of thyroid hormones. These hormones control the body’s metabolism and ensure proper bone and brain development[69].

The first sign of iodine deficiency is often enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter). This can progress to decreasing mental capacity and in children stunt growth and brain development[70].

Taking high doses of iodine for long periods of time can cause similar symptoms to iodine deficiency such as goiter. It can also cause weight gain and nausea[70].

Summary

For all the vitamins and minerals mentioned, Huel meets at least 100% of the recommended daily amount (RDA). Where amounts are higher than the RDA this is due to additional health benefits and/or to account for bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to how much of a particular nutrient is absorbed into the body from the gut. All the vitamins and minerals in Huel are also within safe upper limits.

More information can be found in our About the Vitamins & Minerals in Huel and How Well are the Vitamins and Minerals in Huel Absorbed? articles.

References

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