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Nutritional Deficiencies and Disorders

Apart from the vitamins the body needs certain essential minerals. Calcium and phosphorus are essential for normal bone formation, iron for haemoglobin formation, and iodine for the formation of thyroid hormone. Body also needs traces of sodium, potassium and copper. Zinc, manganese and magnesium are needed only in very small quantities. So also is the case with cobalt and bromide. The deficiency of these elements produces characteristic symptoms. The lack of iodine results in Goitre, deficiency of iron results in anaemia, deficiency of calcium and phosphorus leads to abnormalities in bones.


Normal growth and development of an organism depends on a balanced diet. A diet consisting of all classes of food in the right proportion is a balanced diet. We have already discussed the nutritional requirement of animals in general and of the human being in particular. If all the required nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins fats, minerals and vitamins are not available in their required quantities the organism exhibits what are called deficiency symptoms. 

Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms in Humans



A, retinol

Night blindness, damage to mucous membranes

B1, thiamine

Beri-beri, loss of appetite, fatigue

B2, riboflavin

Lesions in the corners of mouth, eye irritation, skin disorders

B3, niacin

Pellagra, skin disorders, diarrhoea, mental disorders

B6, pyridoxine

Anaemia, slow growth, skin problems, convulsions

Pantothenic acid

Adrenal problems, reproductive problems


(Rare) skin problems, loss of hair

B12, cobalamine

(Rare) pernicious anaemia

Folic acid


C, ascorbic acid

Scurvy, slow healing, poor bone growth

D, califerol


E, tocopherol

Anaemia, infertility (in rats)

K, menadione

Blood-clotting problems (in the newborn)


Malnutrition is the condition caused by an inadequacy of one or more of the essential compounds of one's diet. It may result from inadequate ingestion of foods, ingestion of food lacking in essential constituents, defective absorption by the intestine or defective metabolism within the tissues. The effects of malnutrition are:
  1. Reduction in body weight: If the malnutrition is mild, the loss is principally from adipose tissue, but if it is continued (as in fasting), loss of protein occurs with breakdown of essential body tissues and ultimately, emaciation
  2. Reduction in the basal metabolic rate, with resultant lower body temperatures and reduced blood pressure.
  3. Increased susceptibility to fatigue, accompanied by mental apathy and disinclination for physical exertion.
  4. Tendency of organs to become displaced owing to loss of the fat which normally supports them.
  5. Reduction in blood proteins, resulting in edema.
  6. Increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, especially tuberculosis.


Not only malnutrition but taking nutritive in extra amounts than required by the body, also creates problems sometimes.


Obesity is a state in which an abnormal amount of fat has accumulated in the adipose tissues of the body. It is either endogenous or exogenous.

Endogenous obesity results from disorderly metabolism due to malfunctioning of hypothalamus or one of the endocrine glands (hypophysis, gonads, adrenals or thyroid). Exogenous obesity (simple obesity) arises from overeating, with the food intake far in excess of the demands of the body for growth, repair and energy. Obesity has the following deleterious effects:
  1. It decreases work efficiency, the greater load interferes with muscular movements.
  2. It places a greater burden on the circulatory system (through its heavier demand in the performance of work), with accompanying hypertrophy (enlargement) of the heart.
  3. It interferes with the release of body heat; subcutaneous fat acts as insulation.
  4. For a variety of reasons, the obese person is susceptible to infectious disease such as pneumonia and nephritis, to gall stone formation and to such degenerative diseases as atherosclerosis and hypertension.


In this condition the person's blood contains high levels of cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol in blood are correlated with various diseases of the circulatory system and especially of the heart. Excessive intake of fats such as butter, ghee, vegetable oils red meat and eggs may lead to hypecholesterolemia.

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