Trivia Question: What is the most common vitamin deficiency in the US?
If you guessed Vitamin D…you’re wrong! According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (CDC/NHANES for short), Vitamin B6 deficiency was the most common deficiency seen in the samples collected between 1999 and 2006! That being said Vitamin D was a close second with 10.5% of the population showing a B6 deficiency while 8.1% showed a D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiencies were more prevalent in minority populations with up to 31% of individuals that identifying as non-Hispanic black showing a deficiency.
That being said – levels of Vitamin B6 can be affected by other B vitamins like B12 and folate (B9). This means that although you may be consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin B6, blood levels may show low levels of B6 because of inadequacies in B12 and folate. This is one of the reasons why the B-vitamins are often discussed together. That being said, they each individually also play their own roles. Vitamin B6 is needed for many of the reactions involved in metabolism, brain development during pregnancy/infancy, and immune functions. Vitamin B6 is found in many different foods including poultry and fish, potatoes and starchy vegetables, and fruits.
Most of us are likely not deficient but there are some individuals that are at higher risk for B6 deficiency. Those with kidney disease, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, and some gastrointestinal related diseases like Crohn’s and Irritable Bowel Disease. Vitamin B6 deficiencies are also commonly seen in individual’s with excessive alcohol drinking/dependency. Symptoms of a Vitamin B6 deficiency include itchy rashes and scaly skin on lips and if it is very low then symptoms also include depression, confusion, and weakened immune function.
The fact that a low B6 lab result is not always indicative of low B is one of the reasons why Vitamin D is a nutrient of concern in the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans but B6 is not listed. So, if you guessed Vitamin D, you were definitely on the right track!
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If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask! You can reach me in the comments below or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are concerned about specific nutrient deficiencies and eating well in general, then schedule an appointment with us today!
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– Dua Aldasouqi, MA, RDN, Certified Health Coach