What Are the Most Common Vitamin Deficiencies?

Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2021

4 Most Common Vitamin Deficiencies

vitamins deficiencies
The four most common vitamin deficiencies include vitamin D, B6 and B12, and folic acid. Other common nutritional deficiencies include iron, iodine, magnesium, and calcium.

Most of the American population is deficient in nutrients. This is mainly due to the typical western diet, which consists of packaged or processed foods, red meat, foods high in saturated fats and salty snacks. Additionally, the diet is also low in fruits and vegetables.

The four most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States include vitamins D, B6 and B12 and folate.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D plays an important role in strengthening bones and muscles. It also acts as a protective agent against cancer and diabetes.

There are two ways to get vitamin D, sunlight and food. Food sources of vitamin D are few but include fish-liver oils, fatty fishes, egg yolks, liver and mushrooms. In the United States, dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and other foods (soy milk) are commonly fortified with vitamin D.

Folic acid

Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients needed during pregnancy and infancy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates folic acid be added to all cereal grain products to prevent neural tube defects in children.

Dietary guidelines recommend that every woman should ingest 400 mg of folic acid daily in addition to food sources containing the nutrient. Folic acid can be found in good quantities in foods, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables, peas, chickpeas and kidney beans. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with folic acid.

Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine

Vitamin B6 is a nutrient that is vital for brain development in a growing fetus and children, especially toddlers. People with kidney disease or intestinal disease that affects the absorption of nutrients are most likely to develop a deficiency of this nutrient. Food sources of vitamin B6 include chicken, fish, chickpeas and bananas. Several breakfast foods items are also fortified with the nutrient.

Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamine

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient required for the formation of red blood cells and to maintain the health of nerve cells. Deficiency of this nutrient can result in anemia, sore tongue, depression and a tingling sensation in the limbs. Vitamin B12 is found abundantly in animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, milk and poultry. People who are vegans or those who suffer from intestinal issues are particularly at risk of B12 deficiency.

What are the other nutritional deficiencies commonly found in the United States?

The other four common nutritional deficiencies found in the United States include:


Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, which is necessary for carrying oxygen to various organs and other tissues of the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), iron deficiency is most common in women and children.

Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia, a condition characterized by a low number of red blood cells. Its signs and symptoms include fatigue, pale nails, eyes and skin, shortness of breath on mild exertion and headaches.

Some food sources of iron include spinach, broccoli, red meat, liver and oysters.


Iodine forms an essential component of thyroid hormones, which are necessary for multiple processes in the body, including growth, development and metabolism. Its deficiency can cause mental retardation, hypothyroidism and goiter.

Globally, iodine’s major food sources include iodized salt and seafood. In the United States, fortification of salt with iodine is not mandatory, yet over 90 percent of households in the United States have access to iodized salt. Iodine can also be obtained from eggs, dairy products and grains.


The mineral, magnesium, plays a role in digestion, bone health, sleep, mental health and cardiac health. Its deficiency can cause health issues, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and even kidney damage, which is serious. Food sources of the mineral include whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate and dark, green leafy vegetables.


Calcium forms the major component of bone. It is also vital for the functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves. Its deficiency may cause bones to become brittle and weak, increasing the risk of developing joint pains and fractures. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, dark green vegetables, beans, lentils and sardines.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population. https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/pdf/Nutrition_Book_complete508_final.pdf