Deficiency diseases are widespread in India mainly due to poverty and ignorance. They can be controlled by improving the financial conditions of the people and by imparting health education to them. Let us study the different deficiency diseases.
A diet deficient in carbohydrates leads to weakness in a person and loss of stamina. The tissues of body are used for production of heat and energy if the diet does not provide sufficient energy. Such people cannot bear physical and mental strain.
Taking too much of carbohydrates can result in obesity. The excess carbohydrates are converted into fats and stored in the body. An obese person is sluggish and lethargic (lazy) and more prone to diseases like heart attack.
A diet deficient in protein can lead to severe malnutrition, especially in small children.
Kwashiorkor is a disease caused by protein deficiency in children of 1 to 5 years age. About one per cent of the pre-school children in India suffer from this disease. These children have swollen bellies, bulging eyes, thin legs and their skin becomes scaly and develops cracks.
Kwashiorkor can be cured by giving a protein-rich diet to the child like a diet rich in animal protein or a diet containing wheat, gram, soyabean, peanuts and jaggery (gur).
Deficiency of fats:
Deficiency of proteins and fats in the diet can lead to a disease called Marasmus in infants below the age of one year. A child suffering from Marasmus becomes so thin that loose folds of skin can be seen all over the body. Marasmus is twice more common than kwashiorkor.
Deficiency of vitamins:
Our body requires vitamins in small quantities because they are not needed to produce energy, nor do they constitute bulk components of cells and tissues in our body. Vitamins are needed in the body because they help many enzymes to perform their functions. Thus, they regulate various activities in the body and therefore must be included in our diet. Another reason for taking them in our diet is that many of them cannot be synthesized by our body and, therefore, must reach the body as part of the food we eat. For this reason, vitamins are called essential nutrients.
Vitamins receive their names from letters of the alphabet, for example, vitamins A, B1, B2, B4, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. [Vitamins B1, B2, B4, B6, B12, etc., are collectively called vitamin B-complex]
Vitamins are vital for our health and protect us from diseases. Deficiency of one or more vitamins leads to deficiency diseases.
Deficiency of vitamin A in our diet results in the inability of a person to see in dim light, especially at night. This disease is therefore called night-blindness. Butter, ghee, milk, fish, liver, green, leafy vegetables and yellow-couloured fruits and vegetables like mango, papaya and pumpkin are rich in vitamin A. Cod liver oil is very rich in vitamin A.
Beri-beri: Deficiency of vitamin B1 in the diet causes beri-beri disease in human beings. The symptoms of beri-beri are swelling and pain in legs, extreme weakness, and headache, loss of appetite, paralysis and even heart failure in extreme cases. Whole grain cereals like whole wheat, soyabean, pulses, groundnuts and green vegetables are rich in vitamin B1.
Scurvy is caused due to the deficiency of vitamin C. swelling and bleeding of gums, loosening of teeth, pain in joints, weakness and fatigue are the symptoms of scurvy. Green vegetables and all citrus fruits like orange, lemon and lime are rich in vitamin C. Amla is the richest source of vitamin C.
Rickets: Rickets means twisted bones. It is caused due to the deficiency of vitamin D. rickets causes deformities like low legs (bent legs), pigeon chest, and loss of teeth enamel, tender bones and pain in bones. Since the bones are tender, the person becomes prone to frequent fractures. Cod liver oil and milk are rich in vitamin D. human skin has the ability to synthesize vitamin D in sunlight. Thus, sunlight is a good source of vitamin D.
Deficiency of Minerals:
Carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins are carbon-based compounds (organic compounds). In addition to organic compounds, our body also requires non-carbon compounds (inorganic compounds). Minerals are examples of inorganic compounds. Common salt or sodium chloride is the mineral salt consumed I large amounts through food. Our body requires many such minerals for carrying out its vital activities. Deficiency of minerals can lead to many abnormalities in our body. Minerals required by our body are iron, sodium, chlorine, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iodine, magnesium, etc.
Iron deficiency causes anaemia, which is most common in young children and women. Iron is an important component of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment, present in red blood cells. Deficiency of iron in the blood results in the deficiency of haemoglobin, causing anaemia. An anaemic person looks pale, tires easily, and loses appetite and weight. The richest source of iron is liver. Iron is also available in plenty in meat, green-leafy vegetables like spinach, cereals and pulses.
Iodine is another important mineral, which is an important component of thyroid hormone. Deficiency of iodine in the diet results in enlargement of thyroid gland, a condition called goiter. Deficiency of iodine can also cause mental retardation. Onion and marine fishes are rich in iodine. Iodized common salt can be of great help in reducing the incidence of goiter.
Calcium is needed for the formation of bones and teeth, for blood clotting and for the proper functioning of muscles, especially heart (cardiac) muscles. Milk, cheese, shrimp, eggs, cereals and green vegetables are good sources of calcium.
Phosphorus is another important mineral required by our body. We require at least one gram of phosphorus every day. Phosphorus is found in cereals, milk, eggs, fish and meat.