Common Nutritional Deficiencies In India

This article is authored by Karishma Chawla. She is a practising nutritionist and a weight loss expert..

The food that we consume nourishes our body. The body requires many macro and micro nutrients to function optimally. As these are not produced in our body naturally, we get these nutrients from our diet. They are responsible for keeping us healthy and lack of these nutrients can cause significant deficiency. A nutritional deficiency may also occur when the body is unable to absorb certain nutrients from the food that you eat. The reasons for nutritional deficiencies in India may range from an improper diet to an unhealthy lifestyle.

It is great idea to get to know your body’s requirements and eat a balanced diet to ensure you are all nutrients that you need. Here’s a list of nutritional deficiencies in India. Knowing them can help you avoid these deficiencies. The common nutritional deficiencies in India are Protein energy malnutrition (PEM), anaemia, iodine deficiency disorder, Vitamin A deficiency and vitamin D deficiency.

Protein energy malnutrition (PEM)

Protein energy malnutrition is a syndrome synonymous with undernutrition. In PEM, there is a low intake of food containing sufficient energy and protein and involves deficiency of other nutrients. PEM occurs because the diet is inadequate in both quantity and quality nutrition, and is insufficient to satisfy the physiological requirements. It commonly occurs in infants and children. It can adversely affect their physical and mental development. It also occurs in adults and extreme forms of PEM are referred as Kwashiorkor and Marasmus

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Several interventions have been found helpful to tackle this condition such as reducing low birth weight by ensuring better maternal nutrition, encouraging breastfeeding, use of clean purified water, better hygiene, introducing nutrient dense foods, ensuring sufficient amount of protein and use of therapeutic food. Protein-rich foods are lean chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, milk and milk products like curd should be the part of the diet. For vegetarians, paneer, cheese and plant proteins like pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds are a good choice.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is a lack of vitamin A in blood and tissues. Vitamin A deficiency is defined as - tissue concentration of vitamin A low enough to have adverse health consequences. Depletion of body stores of vitamin A impairs normal physiology functions. It adversely affects visual function, integrity of epithelial lining and immunity. Few causes are inadequate breastfeeding, inadequate consumption of vitamin A-rich foods, general malnutrition and inflammatory conditions. Prevention and management involve food-based approach and vitamin A supplementation. Vitamin A food sources are dairy products, eggs, and orange and yellow vegetables and fruits.

Anaemia – Iron Deficiency


The most common encountered anaemia is caused by the deficiency of iron, wherein there is insufficient iron in the body to maintain normal physiological functions of the tissues. The causes include low dietary intake of iron-rich foods, frequent consumption of tea and coffee which contain polyphenols that reduce the absorption of iron, and low intake of vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich foods which can help improve the absorption of iron.

Prevention and treatment would include promoting iron-rich foods, fortification, using lemon and other sources of vitamin c along with iron rich foods. Use of iron utensils for cooking also tends to increase the iron content. Iron-rich foods are such as green leafy veggies, nuts, seeds, millets, meat, egg and liver.

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Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency affects bone health, cardiovascular health, immunity, hormone health and inflammation. Prevention and management include consumption of vitamin D foods such as beef liver, eggs, fortified milk, and cheese, getting adequate sunshine and supplementation.

Food is information to the body and plays an important role in managing the common nutritional deficiencies in India and hence must be consumed wisely. If you are concerned about having any of these nutritional deficiencies, do approach your health care provider for advice.


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