Our bodies are finely tuned and need a balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates and a range of 13 vitamins and 15 minerals to function. A lack of any one of these essential nutrients can result in serious diseases that can lead to incapacity and even death.
Here are five examples of diseases caused by poor diet, malnutrition and an imbalanced diet. Are you getting enough of these essential vitamins?
Lacks of iron means the red blood cells are unable to transport oxygen around the body. This leads to tiredness, heachache, irregular heartbeat and sensitivity to cold. Iron deficiency may affect 1-2% of Americans today due to a poor diet. Iron is found in fortified cereals, liver, chicken, oysters, seafood, sardines, lean meat, peas, beans, broccoli, eggs and nuts.
Rickets is a serious bone-softening condition historically found in children who lacked vitamin D. The body can make its own vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, or it can be provided through meat and fish oils in the diet. Calcium needs to interact with vitamin D to produce strong bones.
Rickets causes muscle weakness, stunted growth, a curved spine, projected breastbone and bow legs although the availability of milk, fish and meat has led to a decline. However those on a vegetarian or vegan diet should be aware of the importance of vitamin D for bone health.
Related: Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms
A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy, one of the common skin diseases caused by poor diet among sailors in the past when their diet lacked fresh fruit and vegetables. Known as the "grey death", scurvy causes tooth loss, painful joints and weakness, halitosis (bad breath) and blood spots beneath the skin. The body is unable to make vitamin C, so make sure your diet includes citrus fruits, vegetables or vitamin C supplements to avoid even the slightest suggestion of this painful disease.
A lack of niacin (vitamin B3) can cause blistering skin, bleeding from the mouth, aggressive behavior and insanity. Prevalent in Northern Europe and the Middle East when fresh meat was not available, it was also common in the Southern U.S. in the 1940s in those who lived on a corn-based diet. It can be simply prevented by eating fortified cornmeal.
The word "beriberi" means "I cannot" in Sinhalese, graphically epitomizing the inability of sufferers to perform a physical task. Caused by a lack of thiamin (vitamin B1) in the Asian diet of boiled rice, the disease was common in the past when "polished" white rice was introduced in the 20th century in place of brown rice.
Today beriberi is one of the diseases caused by poor diet that can still be found, particularly in alcoholics. Their poor diet and inability to absorb thiamine can lead to weakness, difficulty walking and even death. Sources of vitamin B1 include fortified cereals, marmite and wheat germ in bread.
This history lesson of diseases caused by poor diet superbly illustrates the importance of a healthy balanced diet including those all-important vitamins and minerals found in multivitamin supplements.