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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Hidden Hunger: Micronutrient Deficiencies Are Prevalent Among US Adolescents

By Rachel Murphy

There are a lot of headlines about obesity in children and adolescents and for good reason; in 2012 nearly 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the US were obese.  However, it is important to recognize that body fat accumulation reflects excess energy and not excess micronutrient like vitamins and minerals or other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Hidden hunger; adequate energy intake but insufficient micronutrients is a global problem.  

In the US more than 8 in 10 children aged 2-18 years have inadequate vitamin D and E intake from food alone and 50% have inadequate calcium intake.The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee identified 8 under consumed essential nutrients. However, these reports are based on self-reported dietary intake and as readers of Talking Nutrition know; nutrient status matters

DSM’s Talking Nutrition’s team led an analysis of nutrient biomarkers in a nationally representative US population of adolescents aged 9-18 years that was presented at Experimental Biology this week. Deficiencies were defined using established guidelines from the CDC and WHO that represent levels where symptoms of deficiencies are apparent. The results are striking: more than 1 in 4 adolescents had at least 1 vitamin/mineral deficiency (Abstract 250.4). Females 14-18 years were particularly at risk; more than 1 in 3 females had a deficiency.  

How can we improve nutrient status of adolescents? Most adolescents depended on their diet to meet nutrient needs; 70% did not use dietary supplements. But among those who used a dietary supplement; the prevalence of deficiency was lower and lower still among users of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement containing all essential vitamins and at least 7 minerals. 

The take away message is that even in modern day US, clinical deficiencies are prevalent. Hidden hunger is a problem among adolescents and we need to take action to improve nutrient intakes during this critical period of growth and development.

Main Citation

Bird JK, Ciappio ED, Murphy RA.  Lower Prevalence Of Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies Among Adolescent Users Of Full Spectrum Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplements.  Presented at Experimental Biology, Boston MA, 2015. Program number 250.4

Other Citations

Bailey RL, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Lentino CV, Dwyer JT.  Do dietary supplements improve micronutrient sufficiency in children and adolescents? J Pediatr 2012;161:837-42. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.05.009