What are Nutrient Deficiency Diseases?

Nutrient deficiency diseases occur when there is an absence of nutrients in the body. This stage is commonly referred to as malnutrition. Biological imbalances in a person’s metabolic activitiescan also lead to malnutrition. More than fifty nutrients are found to be present in the food that we eat. It is these nutrients that along with fibre and water which contribute to the energy requirements of the body. The nutrients that perform certain roles in the body other than energy production can be classified into four, namely, vitamins, fats, proteins, and minerals.

The word ‘vitamine’ was coined by Polish-born Casimir Funk in 1912. The last letter ‘e’ was later dropped from the word in 1920 at the suggestion of Jack Cecil Drummond, the English nutritionist. However, by 1914 itself Funk had found out that, disorders such as beriberi, scurvy, and pellagra were the results of vitamin deficiency. Scurvy is the listed among the oldest recorded deficiency diseases and is also the first to be cured by adding the amount of a particular vitamin
(Vitamin C) in the daily diet. We find historical recordings of scurvy as a common malady in Vasco da Gama’s expedition. He is supposed to have lost almost half of his crew to scurvy. It was only in 1753 that a British naval physician, James Lind, in His Treatise of the Scurvy gave the first example of a controlled clinical trial experiment and proved that Vitamin C present in citrus fruits could effectively check scurvy.

There are about twenty five mineral elements that appear in the body in the form of simple salts. Macro minerals are those which appear in large quantities whereas those minerals salts the traces of which are found in the body are termed as micro minerals. Calcium, phosphorous, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, sodium, chromium, and tin are the most essential minerals. Aluminum, lead and mercury are the not so essential ones.


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