Nutrient Shortfalls: Common Vitamins You Might Be Lacking, and Why

Common Vitamin Deficiencies

As you probably know, the best and primary source for essential daily nutrients is a diet rich in a variety of foods. You might not be aware, however, that as many as 9 out of 10 Americans fall short of getting the key nutrients necessary for good health.

Did You Know:

Over 95% of Americans are not meeting the recommendations for Vitamin D.1 Vitamin D is a powerhouse nutrient for our overall well-being that supports various aspects of health, including bone, muscle and immune system health.

Over 50% of Americans fall short in magnesium.1 Magnesium is a key mineral that helps support heart, muscle, and nerve function. It also helps convert food into cellular energy.

Nearly all adults fall short of the recommended intake for EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.2 EPA and DHA omega-3s help support a healthy heart.

Although genetics plays a role in determining our health, most of our health outcomes are controlled by our lifestyle. This includes, of course, the dietary choices we make. It’s important to be aware of what your current daily diet may be lacking. Dietary supplements play an important role in helping to fill nutrient gaps.

Why is Vitamin D Important for Overall health?

Vitamin D is essential for numerous functions in the body, including bone health, immune system function and cell regulation.3,† Vitamin D also supports muscle function, muscle strength and balance.4, Vitamin D is naturally found in very few foods, such as fatty fish and egg yolks; some cereals and milk are fortified with it. However, you would have to consume large amounts of these natural and fortified sources to meet your Vitamin D needs. For example, you would need to consume approximately 20 glasses of milk per day5 to achieve 50 mcg (2000 IU) of Vitamin D, a daily recommended level associated with healthy Vitamin D blood levels.6

Learn More: Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin D

Are You at Risk for Vitamin D Insufficiency or Deficiency?

Our skin has the unique ability to make Vitamin D through UVB rays from 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. 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.

Learn More: How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

The Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium helps support nerve, muscle and heart function and is involved in over 300 reactions in the body. This key mineral also plays a role in energy metabolism support, specifically in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or cellular energy, for the body. Magnesium also supports healthy bones and teeth.

Learn More: What Does Magnesium Do for the Body?

Why are Americans Lacking Magnesium?

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.3,7

What are Good Food Sources of Magnesium?

Magnesium can be found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, in some nuts including brazil nuts, almonds and cashews, and in whole grains like oat bran cereals and brown rice. If you do not consume many of these foods, consider adding a magnesium supplement to your routine.

Learn More: The Best Healthy Foods for You

What are the Benefits of EPA and DHA?

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - the primary omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and fish oil - play a key role in supporting cell health and heart health.2, EPA and DHA are important parts 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.

Learn More: Fish Oil's Heart Health Benefits

Most Americans don’t consume enough EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, Americans are missing the mark with these important omega-3s and are consuming far more omega-6 fatty acids (such as corn oil, sesame oil or soybean oil). 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 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 the benefits of EPA and DHA, take a fish oil or omega-3 supplement with a complete meal in order to help support optimal absorption.

Learn More: How Much Fish Oil Should You Take?

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.8 To help fill in the gaps from suboptimal nutrient intake, talk to your healthcare provider about a nutritional supplement regimen that is best for you.

Learn More About Vitamin Deficiency:


  1. Fulgoni V, et al. Foods, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where do Americans get their 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. Ceglia L, Harris SS. Vitamin D and its role in skeletal muscle. Calcif Tissue Int. 2013;92(2):151-162.
  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2012. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,
  6. Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol & Metab. 2011;96(7):1911-1930
  7. 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.
  8. 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