We’re relentlessly bombarded with how poor the standard American diet is, so it may come as a bit of a surprise that most Americans do get enough vitamins and nutrients. A report published this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only about 10% of the population have nutritional deficiencies.
Women ages 20 to 39 were particularly low in iodine, which is important during pregnancy for fetus’ brain development. Part of this deficiency could be the result of more women using sea salt, instead of iodized table salt. Around the world, iodized salt and seafood are the major dietary sources of iodine, according to the report. In the U.S., most people get their iodine from dairy products and bread.
The report is based on analyses of Americans’ blood and urine; researchers tested for levels of 58 different ‘biochemical indicators’ of diet and nutrition. Based on data from 2003-2006, it’s the second report in a CDC series; the first one, published in 2008, measured from 1999-2002.
Overall, the most common deficiencies were vitamin B6, vitamin D and iron, though deficiency rates varied greatly by age, gender and ethnicity. For example, older adults were most likely to be deficient in vitamin B12; men were more likely than women to be vitamin C deficient. Blacks and Mexican-Americans were much more likely to be deficient in vitamin D compared to whites.
Overall, Americans were least likely to be deficient in vitamin A, vitamin E and folate. With folate, the researchers say requirements that cereals be fortified with the vitamin has made a big difference.
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to tell how much of our vitamins and nutrients come via foods in which they naturally occur, how much via fortified foods and how much via vitamins and supplements.
Still, “these findings are a snapshot of our nation’s overall nutrition status,” Christopher Portier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, said in a statement. “Measurements of blood and urine levels of these nutrients are critical because they show us whether the sum of nutrient intakes from foods and vitamin supplements is too low, too high, or sufficient.”