Common Nutrient Shortfalls: What Americans are Missing

The best and primary source for essential daily nutrients is a diet rich in a variety of foods. However, as many as 9 out of 10 Americans fall short in getting some key nutrients necessary for good health. Did you know…

• Over 90% of Americans fall short in vitamin D.1 Vitamin D is a powerhouse nutrient for our overall well-being that supports various aspects of health, including immune health and bone health, to name a few.
• At least 50% of Americans fall short in magnesium.1 Magnesium is a key mineral that helps support heart, muscle, and nerve function as well as convert food into cellular energy.
• Nearly all adults fall short with meeting recommended intake for EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.2 EPA and DHA omega-3s help support a healthy heart.

Although our genetics do play a role in determining our health, the majority of our health outcomes are controlled by our lifestyle, including the dietary choices we make. It is important to take the necessary actions to achieve good health, and address the nutrient shortfalls occurring in the American diet today.

Dietary supplements can play an important role in helping to fill nutritional gaps.

Vitamin D is essential for numerous functions in the body, including bone health, immune function and cell regulation, to name a few.3 Vitamin D can be obtained from some foods such as fortified milk and some fatty fish, as well as the sun. However, using sunscreen will block nearly 99% of vitamin D production in the skin. In addition to missing this key nutrient in our diets and limiting sun exposure, there are other factors that increase risk for vitamin D insufficiency: taking medications that interfere with vitamin D absorption or metabolism, suffering from a malabsorption syndrome, being older in age, having darker skin, or becoming overweight or obese which increases the need for vitamin D. Very simply, a daily vitamin D supplement can help ensure you are meeting your vitamin D requirements. Talk to your physician or health care practitioner about getting your vitamin D level tested, to determine how much vitamin D is right for you.

Magnesium helps support nerve, muscle and heart function and is involved in over 300 reactions in the body.,3 This key mineral also plays a role in energy metabolism support, specifically in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or cellular energy, for our body. Magnesium also supports healthy bones and teeth. Certain factors may lead to low blood concentrations of magnesium, or magnesium becoming depleted in the body. In fact, nearly half of all Americans are lacking in this key mineral.1 Poor dietary intake of magnesium, increasing age, as well as certain conditions (digestive or kidney problems) may result in low magnesium in the body.3-4

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the primary omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, play a key role in supporting cell health as well as heart health.,2 EPA and DHA are an important part of cell membranes and help support cell membrane structure. When it comes to your health, EPA and DHA are most notably studied and recommended for their role in helping support a healthy heart. Unfortunately, Americans are missing the mark with these essential omega-3s, and are consuming far more omega-6 fatty acids. The ideal and recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be between 1:1 and 4:1. Instead, most Americans consume these fatty acids at a ratio of omega-6:omega-3 between 10:1 and 25:1, and therefore, are unable to reap all the amazing benefits of omega-3s. To ensure that your body is getting all of the benefits of EPA and DHA, take fish oil with a complete meal in order to help support optimal absorption.

Busy lifestyles and the stresses of daily life lead to poor food choices that impact our nutrient intake. This is a growing problem in the United States. Our bodies need all the essential nutrients to function optimally. Incorporating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein including fish, nuts and legumes, is where we need to start.5 To help fill in the gaps from suboptimal nutrient intake, talk to your health care provider about a nutritional supplement regimen that is best for you.

1. Fulgoni V, et al. Foods, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where do Americans get there nutrients? J of Nutrition 2011;141:1847-1854.
2. Papanikolaou Y, et al. U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. Nutrition Journal 2014; 13:31. (Based on average daily consumption of 86 mg/day of EPA&DHA vs. 500 mg/day commonly recommended by experts to achieve the equivalent of 2 servings of oily fish/week, which provide approximately 3,500 mg of EPA&DHA per week).
3. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, D.C. 1997.
4. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to magnesium and “hormonal health”, reduction of tiredness and fatigue, contribution to normal psychological functions, maintenance of normal blood glucose concentrations, maintenance of normal blood pressure, protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage, maintenance of the normal function of the immune system, maintenance of normal blood pressure during pregnancy, resistance to mental stress, reduction of gastric acid levels, maintenance of normal fat metabolism and maintenance of normal muscle contraction. EFSA Journal 2010:8(10):1807.
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at