The 4 Most Common Nutritional Diseases

Nutritional diseases are closely related to the deficient intake of substances that carry out key physiological functions. Learn more.
The 4 Most Common Nutritional Diseases
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 28 March, 2023

There are certain nutritional diseases that are produced from an inefficiency in the contribution of substances. Below, we’re going to tell you which are the most important and what you can do to avoid their appearance.

Keep in mind that to prevent situations of this type, it’s best to prepare a healthy and varied menu. Even so, sometimes it may be necessary to include a dietary supplement in the usual diet in order to maximize the contribution of a certain nutrient.

The 4 most common nutritional diseases

We’re going to see the 4 most frequent nutritional diseases, their causes, and their consequences.

1. Anemia

Anemia is a disease characterized by inefficiency in the transport of oxygen through the blood. Said molecule fails to reach the tissues in the required amounts, which causes chronic tiredness and fatigue. The metabolism and the physiological reactions through which energy is obtained undergo an alteration in their functioning.

This nutritional disease can be caused by two different factors: A lack of iron or a lack of vitamin B12 in the diet. In addition, there are certain genetic components, but we’re going to focus strictly on the dietary components.

Iron deficiency anemia is that which originates from an iron deficiency, as stated in a study published in the journal The Medical Clinics of North America . This situation is reversed by means of an increase in the intake of the mineral, either through supplements or intravenously in the most severe cases.

In parallel, megaloblastic anemia appears when the diet is deficient in vitamin B12, a nutrient only present in foods of animal origin. In such a situation, a series of problems are generated in the differentiation of red blood cells, according to what’s detailed in multiple investigations.

Foods with iron to prevent anemia.
A lack of iron in the diet can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

2. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a characteristic disease in women who’ve already gone through menopause. It appears with a progressive decalcification of the bone tissue, which increases the risk of fractures. It’s a disease that affects life habits, as any small trauma can cause a serious problem.

This nutritional disease can be caused by an inefficient intake of calcium and vitamin D during adolescence and adulthood. After menopause, a series of hormonal changes take place that precipitate the loss of calcium at the bone level. If the intake of the mineral in previous stages wasn’t correct, the problem becomes more aggressive.

Despite the fact that it’s a chronic disease, there are certain treatments that are effective. It’s clear that the most appropriate would be prevention.

However, vitamin D supplementation once the decalcification process has begun has proven to be effective in reducing the severity and speed at which the problem progresses. It’s appropriate to combine it with calcium to make the treatment more effective.

3. Cardiovascular diseases

Most cardiovascular diseases have an important dietary component, which is why they can be considered nutritional diseases. Life habits determine whether or not they develop, despite the fact that there’s also a genetic component.

A correct supply of nutrients and a well-balanced diet prevent the development of these diseases. In this regard, the regular supply of unsaturated lipids manages to modulate inflammation and reduce the incidence of this problem, as confirmed by research published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews .

It’s essential to limit the consumption of foods that are high in simple sugars or trans fats. Both are considered inflammatory. In addition, they’re capable of altering the lipid profile and promoting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the blood.

In the event that you’ve already been diagnosed with a disease of this type, possible treatment may consist of supplementation with omega 3 and vitamin D, in addition to making certain dietary adjustments. These changes in the nutritional regimen must be aligned with the pertinent pharmacology.

At the same time, it’s worth noting the need to practice physical exercise on a regular basis. This reduces the risk of complications.

4. Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the nutritional diseases par excellence. It consists of an alteration of the pancreatic function that leads to problems when it comes to secreting or using insulin. There are two types: One of early onset (type 1) and one of adulthood (type 2). We’ll focus on the second.

One of the risk factors for the development of diabetes is a poor diet. An excess in the consumption of simple sugars can generate spikes in glycemia, which translates into pancreatic stress that affects metabolic health.

For this reason, the reduction in the intake of carbohydrates through the diet has been associated with a lower risk of suffering from the disease. This is evidenced by a study published in the Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism. In fact, there are several articles that defend the implementation of a ketogenic diet.

Despite being a chronic disease, the suppression of carbohydrates seems an effective strategy to control glycemia once the problem has developed. What’s also clear is that exercise is capable of preventing the development of the disease, as well as improving its course. There’s evidence that physical activity contributes to reducing insulin resistance.

Preventing nutritional diseases is key

All the nutritional diseases that we’ve addressed are characterized by presenting a common denominator: They can be prevented. To do this, you simply need to adapt your diet and maintain it throughout life, ensuring correct habits constantly.

It’s important to ensure that all essential nutrients are consumed on a regular basis, but also that substances considered toxic to the body, such as tobacco and alcohol, are avoided.

In the same way, it’s essential to practice physical exercise on a daily basis. Strength work stimulates muscle hypertrophy and reduces the risk of metabolic diseases. Resistance training increases the functionality and efficiency of the cardiovascular system.

Supplementation with certain substances that have shown efficacy in order to improve the state of health can be prescribed. We’re talking about certain antioxidants, vitamin C, and melatonin. All these nutrients have the ability to modulate the inflammatory states of the body.

It must be taken into account that many of the diseases mentioned are related to inflammation and oxidation. Controlling both processes is key in order to ensure prevention.

A woman pushing away a pile of pastries.
Excess sugars can promote pathological metabolic states, so their regulation is recommended.

Beware of additives

In addition to toxic substances such as tobacco and alcohol, there are food additives that can increase the risk of developing these diseases. An example is nitrites and some types of amines. Even certain sweeteners produce changes in the intestinal microbiota.

In this regard, it’s most appropriate to follow a diet based on the consumption of fresh food. The fewer ultra-processed foods that appear in the diet, the better. Vegetables and fish should always be prioritized, and it’s also important to provide high-quality fats.

Nutritional diseases are a public health problem

Nutritional diseases are characterized by being caused by an inadequate diet, as well as by the development of unhealthy lifestyle habits. Correcting dietary inefficiencies and toxic consumption is a turning point when it comes to preventing them.

It’s worth highlighting the need to increase the consumption of certain nutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as these modulate the physiological reactions that take place in the human body. It’s important to include vegetables in the diet and ensure optimal micronutrient intake.

Don’t forget that many of these diseases have a chronic nature, so they don’t have a defined cure. Even handling them can be problematic. For this reason, it’s important to instill good habits from the early stages of life.

Remember to consult a professional if you have doubts about the quality of your diet. This way, you can get a personalized diet adapted to your needs, which will be optimal.

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  • DeLoughery TG., Iron Deficiency Anemia. Med Clin North Am, 2017. 101 (2): 319-332.
  • Green R., Mitra AD., Megaloblastic anemias: nutritional and ohter causes. Med Clini North Am, 2017. 101(2): 297-317.
  • Chiodini I., Bolland MJ., Calcium supplementation in osteoporosis: useful or harmful? Eur J Endocrinol, 2018. 178 (4): 13-25.
  • Abdelhamid AS., Brown TJ., Brainard JS., Biswas P., et al., Omega 3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2018.
  • Westman EC., Tondt J., Maguire E., Yancy WS., Implementing a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to manage type 2 diabetes mellitus. Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab, 2018. 13 (5): 263-272.
  • Jenkins DW., Jenks A., Exercise and diabetes: a narrative review. J Foot Ankle Surg, 2017. 56 (5): 968-974.

Los contenidos de esta publicación se redactan solo con fines informativos. En ningún momento pueden servir para facilitar o sustituir diagnósticos, tratamientos o recomentaciones provenientes de un profesional. Consulta con tu especialista de confianza ante cualquier duda y busca su aprobación antes de iniciar o someterse a cualquier procedimiento.