Vitamin deficiencies: The hidden environmental costs and a sustainable solution

Our bodies rely strongly on a wide range of vitamins and minerals to properly function. These elements act as tiny engines, working to convert foods into energy to fuel our daily operations, build strong bones and muscles, and maintain a healthy immune system. Despite their significance, vitamin deficiencies have astonishingly remained a widespread issue worldwide. There are numerous reasons for this trend. To celebrate Earth Day this week, we will focus on the threatening environmental costs behind our plates that might lead to vitamin deficiencies. Then we discover sustainable solutions to simultaneously benefit our bodies and the planet.

From Womb to Wisdom: Why Everyone Needs Optimal Vitamins Throughout Life

Vitamin deficiencies refer to a condition caused by the lack of essential vitamins in your body for a prolonged period. However, it would be difficult to clinically recognize the symptoms of vitamin deficiency unless severe circumstances. The most susceptible groups of people who are likely to suffer from vitamin deficiency are pregnant and lactating women, children, and young adolescents [1]

This is because these at-risk groups have increased requirements for such compounds to fulfill their specific needs. Pregnant women need adequate vitamins for maternal and fetal health, optimal infant development during lactation, and avoiding obstetric-complication risks [2]

Young children, on the other hand, have additional demands due to their rapid growth, higher energy expenditure to grow, play, learn, and the overall development of vital organs and systems. Ensuring sufficient vitamins is crucial during their formative years for optimal growth. 

However, not only do these two groups need sufficient vitamins but the remaining population should also avoid the lack of vitamins because even mild vitamin deficiencies can cause severe implications for your well-being [3].

Vitamin Deficiency: A Warning Sign Your Body Might Be Missing Out

The long-term effects of vitamin deficiencies might be reflected through these common symptoms below: 

General Symptoms

Fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, weight fluctuation (weight gain or loss), irritability, cognitive impairment, and problems with sleeping patterns.

Skin, Hair, and Nails

Signs of deficiencies in vitamin A, Bs, and biotin encompass skin dryness, breakouts, hair loss, brittle nails, easy bruising, and mouth sores.

Vision Problems

Night blindness, blurry vision, dryness, and increased light sensitivity are perhaps associated with the lack of vitamin A.

Bone and Joint Issues

Muscle aches, pain, increased risk of fractures, and joint pain can be signs of vitamin D or calcium shortage.

Neurological Problems

Lack of some vitamins, such as different types of vitamin B, can cause sensations of numbness and tingling in the extremities. 


The Hidden Environmental Cost

This part entails the root cause of higher environmental footprints on Mother Nature and explains how these environmental factors affect the nutrition of individuals. 

Nutrient Depletion in Soil

The degradation of our land resources, such as soil erosion, threatens our future food security. Intensive farming practices without safeguards for soil replenishment to achieve higher yields are one of the main drivers for soil erosion. Soil depletion removes the fertile topsoil, which contains a wealth of essential nutrients and organic matter crucial for plant growth.

Without this nutrient-rich soil layer, plants, fruits, and vegetables are unable to naturally take up sufficient vitamins and minerals, resulting in the diminished nutritional content of the harvested crops.

Water Quality

Water pollution is primarily caused by industrial and agricultural runoff as well as the constant discharge of pesticides, fertilizers, and untreated sewage into the ocean. Such industrial pollutants containing heavy metals and different types of chemicals can accumulate in water bodies and aquatic organisms, including marine species. The contaminated quality of water implies detrimental effects on the seafood population and its nutritional values.

When humans consume contaminated seafood, they might face higher risks of pollutant exposure and essential vitamin deficiency, such as omega-3, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, which interfere with their overall wellness. 

Climate Change

Climate change is exemplified by the increasing global temperatures and alteration in rainfall, which potentially impact micronutrient-rich food access and hinder its sustainable quantity and quality.

As a result of climate change, a broad set of phenomenons, including extreme weather, higher temperatures, increasing sea levels, sea and land degradation, and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), appear to affect both the yields and the vitamin concentration of plants and animal food. For instance, the elevated carbon dioxide diminishes the micronutrient concentration of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper in plants, regardless of geographical location and plant groups. 

Biodiversity Loss

Generally speaking, climate change is also the main culprit for the loss of ecosystems. The incremental sea level rise due to the melting of polar ice and glaciers is strongly correlated with coastal inundation, sea intrusion, loss of coral reefs, and mangrove forests. Such hidden environmental costs stress the coastal rice production. Ocean fisheries also decline significantly because of warming and oxygen depletion. 


Towards a Sustainable Solution: Food First, Supplements When Needed

As a human being, you are encouraged to bridge the nutritional gap with sustainable consumption. By focusing on sustainable food choices and eco-conscious supplements when needed, you can ensure adequate micronutrient intake responsibly while protecting our planet. 

Dietary Diversity

The role of dietary diversification in addressing micronutrient deficiencies is undeniable; you should consider consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and so on to obtain the full spectrum of essential vitamins needed. 

Reduced Food Waste

Food waste, like plastic bags, should be diminished in usage because it represents a loss of resources and contributes to environmental degradation. You should practice proper perishable food storing and meal planning to minimize the waste in the external environment.

Mindful consumption

Support your local and seasonal products for nutrient-dense and sustainably sourced foods. Opting for locally grown and seasonal vegetables and fruits for freshness and nutrient preservation is normally washed away due to long transportation distances and poses a lower environmental impact. Besides, you can also contribute to the initiation of sustainable farming practices within the local farmer community. 

Supplement Wisely, if Necessary 

Look for companies strongly committed to the sustainable development goal in their operation, including manufacturing practices. At NuBest, we take pride in our strategic alliance, made in an FDA-registered facility certified by GMP to bring the best products to our customers. In other words, you can be confident that all of our manufacturing stages from R&D to mass production are aligned with the 21 CFR part 117 [4]. These facilities ensure that our products are safe and high quality, which are free from contaminants, and meet the quality standards under proper control. 

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Vitamin Deficiencies: The Hidden Environmental Costs and a Sustainable Solution

In conclusion, though vitamin deficiencies are widely known as a global health issue, the relationship between hidden environmental costs and vitamin deficiencies seems to have been hardly heard of before. Understanding the substantial impacts of the environment on our food chain and food security, we know that we are taking advantage of the well-being of our planet and ourselves just to serve our seemingly insatiable sakes.

There is still hope for rescue. On the consumer side, what you can do first is to re-navigate your daily habits and mindset. Embracing sustainable and responsible solutions, involving minimizing food waste, diversifying food ranges, supporting local farmers, and making informed choices about supplements, can work wonders. 

Whenever possible, prioritize food approaches before considering taking any supplements. While supplements can be an effective and efficient tool to address nutritional deficiencies, a balanced diet should be the primary method of bridging the gap of micronutrient deficiencies. 

Research papers

[1] Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2024, February 29). Micronutrient deficiency. Our World in Data. Retrieved from,known%20as%20vitamin%20B9).

[2] Mejía-Montilla, J., Reyna-Villasmil, N., & Reyna‐Villasmil, E. (2021). Micronutrient intake during pregnancy and lactation. Revista Peruana De Ginecología Y Obstetricia, 67(4).

[3] Griffiths, J. K. (2020). Vitamin deficiencies. In Elsevier eBooks (pp. 1042–1047).