10 signs of nutritional deficiencies in children


Nutritional deficiency occurs when we do not absorb the sufficient amount of nutrients necessary for the nutritional balance of our body. In France, it is the recommended nutritional intake (ANC) that defines the “ideal” ration for these nutrients. There is a deficiency when a person has not been able to absorb at least 2/3 of the NCAs.


This deficiency is determined precisely and may concern micronutrients (vitamins, trace elements, minerals) or macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, lipids). It is defined in terms of cellular metabolism and not just what is in the daily food ration.


Among the main causes of a nutritional deficiency, there are:

Nutritional insufficiency in the diet: it is a lack of intake in the daily diet. A specific nutrient is not contained in the plate voluntarily or not. This usually occurs during a diet (vitamin C deficiency that causes scurvy), when the nutrient is not contained in the food available or when it contains natural or toxic anti-nutrients (sulphites destroy including thiamine) );


Malabsorption: this occurs when the diet contains the nutrient, but the body can not absorb it normally in its digestive system because of enzymological or mechanical disorders. A disease of the small intestine is, for example, at the origin of the sprue, a disease caused by the malabsorption of iron, calcium or fat although these elements are contained in the food bowl;


The lack of assimilation: in this case, the bolus contains the nutrient which is in turn well absorbed by the digestive tract, but it is the cellular metabolism that does not use it properly. For example, diabetes is a consequence of poor glucose utilization at the cellular level.


The most common types of nutritional deficiency


Calcium deficiency

This is the world’s best-known lack of media and dairy advertising, but it is not the most common. It mainly affects women in menopause and seniors, but children are the most vulnerable when they are affected.

Calcium deficiency does not necessarily emit external signs in the immediate future, but can cause serious illness or even death. In case of prolonged lack, the subject suffers from an insufficiency of the bone mass, convulsions, problems of heart rhythms and weakening of the bones (osteoporosis). Note that the body contains more than one kilogram of calcium, since this mineral participates in the development of bones, teeth; nerves, muscles and heart. The body needs 500 mg of calcium per day for a 1-year-old baby, and 1,300 mg for an 18-year-old, pregnant woman or senior; the average for an adult being 1000mg / day.

To absorb a sufficient amount or to overcome a possible deficiency, it is necessary to choose foods rich in calcium. Among them, there are dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, mainly cooked cheeses), sardines in oil, parsley, watercress, spinach, almond …


Iron deficiency

Also known as iron deficiency anemia, iron deficiency is the most common since it affects more than 30% of the world population according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Iron is the main mineral involved in the production of red blood cells. When someone is iron deficient, their red blood cells become lighter, smaller and less numerous.


Iron deficiency anemia causes several symptoms: heavy fatigue, headaches, hair loss, chills, retarded growth, decreased intellectual ability, lack of muscle tone … Red meat, yellow d Eggs, green leafy vegetables, clams, oysters, mussels, sea lettuce or spirulina are the richest foods in iron. Also, the body needs 10mg of iron a day and it rises from 15 to 20mg / day for a woman who has her period.


Magnesium deficiency

This lack is often neglected as it affects the majority of the world’s population, including 23% of women and 18% of men in France. The body of a man needs 420mg / day of magnesium and 360mg / day for that of a woman. In case of deficiency, the subject is suffering from stress, fatigue or muscle cramps and is easily irritable. In rare cases, this can lead to tetanus or even death.

Magnesium is found in seafood, skin of seeds, fish, molluscs or nuts. Cocoa, almond, spirulina, peanut, nuts and hazelnuts, clam or chocolate are particularly foods with high magnesium content.


Protein deficiency

Also known as “kwashiorkor”, the lack of protein mainly affects young children from 6 months to three years in poor countries. This happens when their food does not contain nutrients of animal origin while they are no longer breastfed. The first symptoms are fatigue, irritability, lethargy or anemia. In the absence of food correction or adapted treatment, the deficiency leads to a delay or a stop of growth, the slimming and the diminution of the muscular mass, the swelling of the belly, or to digestive and mental disorders.

When the treatment is done in time, the child can return to “normal” health, but with sequelae such as mental disorders and reduced height. The consumption of meat, milk or fish makes it possible to correct this deficiency. On the other hand, the delay or absence of treatment inevitably causes death.


Symptoms of nutritional deficiencies

In all cases, food deficiency is mainly due to the unavailability or poverty of food intake, especially in underdeveloped countries. In rich countries, this can come from an unbalanced diet that does not provide essential nutrients to the body. Finally, pregnancy, colon cancer or gastrointestinal disorders are also at the root of nutritional deficiency.


If the symptoms vary depending on the insufficient nutrient, several 10 signs of distress are common to all deficiencies, including:


  • Tiredness ;
  • Weakness ;
  • Respiratory problems;
  • Change of appetite;
  • Pallor;
  • Hair loss;
  • The constipation ;
  • Heart disorders (palpitation);
  • The Depression ;
  • The lack of concentration.

All these symptoms do not necessarily appear together and the body can even adapt to most of them. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor as soon as they last too long, especially when they disturb the daily life.