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Common Nutrient Deficiencies in College Students

The life of a college student is busy and often stressful, with many new experiences and responsibilities. One major challenge college students face is staying healthy, and with everything else going on in a student’s life, proper nutrition is often the last thing on their mind. Between stress, lack of sleep, and low-quality food, students are especially vulnerable to pathogens and pollutants. All of these factors deplete critical nutrients in the body and without a well-rounded diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and proteins, there is a risk of nutrient deficiencies. Listed below are three commonly found nutritional deficiencies in US college students. Blood tests can be performed to verify a deficiency.Speak to our Wellness Consultants today for free to discuss your health questions and concerns.


Cobalamin, or Vitamin B12, is a water-soluble vitamin in the B-vitamin family that is critical for energy production, nervous system health, cognitive and mood support, cardiovascular system function, and the production of red blood cells {1,2}.B12, along with vitamins B6 and Folate, are essential in a biochemical process in our body called methylation, which happens in every one of our cells, many billion times each day. Methylation regulates and affects the production of amino acids, neurotransmitters, hormones, blood cells, DNA, and antioxidants that directly impact cardiovascular, neurological, and reproductive health as well as energy production anddetoxification pathways {3}. Methylation also controls certain genes and gene expressions, making it a powerful player in epigenetics {4}. In order for the body to be able to use B12 in methylation, itmust be in its natural form, called:methylcobalamin. Synthetic vitamin B12 is calledcyanocobalamin and is not available to be used by the body until it is converted into methylcobalamin. B12 is found almost solely in animal products, including meat and poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Plants do not contain B12 and plant-based products only can provide B12 if it is added during production. For this reason, B12 deficiencies are found mostly in students who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. While the body can store some B12 in the liver, it is a water-soluble vitamin and needs to be consumed regularly {5}. Additionally, it is not uncommon to have a genetic condition affecting methylation that causes the body to require a greater consumption of methylcobalamin. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause symptoms such as fatigue, lack of focus, mood swings, and rarely, anemia. Because these symptoms are not particularly specific to B12, it is hard to diagnose a deficiency based solely on symptoms. A blood test can be performed to directly check B12 levels or a self-identified lack of B12 rich foods included in one's diet can suggest a deficiency. If B12 supplementation is needed,Solutions 4 Health offers bioavailable B12 (methylcobalamin) in Liquid, Lozenge, and Capsule forms, at varying doses for your specific needs. Also available is a Complete B-Complex that includes all of the B vitamins in their bioavailable, active forms to support energy production and methylation.

Vitamin C

One deficiency that is surprisingly common among college students is Vitamin C. This essential vitamin is not made or stored by the body so regular consumption is required. Additionally, Vitamin C is used by the body as needed, and exposure to toxins, cigarette smoke, alcohol, processed food, and other environmental stressors all increase the body's use of Vitamin C and increase the risk of deficiency. Vitamin C is best known for its powerful support of the immune system {6}. It also provides potent antioxidant protection by combating cellular damage from free radicals caused by oxidative stress, thus protecting health overall. Vitamin C is a key nutrient in the synthesis of collagen, keeping skin and joints healthy and hydrated and is crucial in the skin healing process as well as in the production of neurotransmitters and the absorption of iron. Symptoms of Vitamin C insufficiency include fatigue,slow wound healing, frequent colds, swelling and bleeding from the gums, and mood changes including irritability and depression {7}. A shocking study in 1998 found that 1.2% of students at Arizona State University had clinical scurvy and that a whopping 16% hadVitamin C insufficiency {8}. Another study found that increased Vitamin C intake elevated the mood of male higher education students {9}. Fortunately, Vitamin C is found in many foods including citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, kiwi), berries, and fresh, uncooked bell peppers, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) are all great sources of Vitamin C {10}. For those individuals that have higher needs for Vitamin C or who struggle to eat Vitamin C rich foods,Solutions 4 Health offers a high-potency Buffered Vitamin C as well as Vitamin C Chewables.


Zinc is another nutrient that college students often struggle to adequately consume. It is an essential mineral critical for many fundamental processes in the body including, but not limited to, DNA construction and repair, proper immune function, enzyme activity, hormone production, reproductive health, and tissue growth and structure {11}. Similar to Vitamin C, the body cannot store zinc, so even fairly short-term reductions in intake can lead to a deficiency. There is substantial evidence of zinc’s ability to act as a potent antiviral and studies have repeatedly shown that zinc supplementation shortens the duration and severity of viral infections including the common cold {12}. Zinc deficiency can be a genetic condition inherited from one's parents, however more commonly it occurs from a combination of decreased intake, inhibited absorption, increased metabolic demand, or excessive loss. Nutritionally, oysters, poultry, and red meats are all great sources of zinc; lentils, beans, seeds, and fortified cereals are all good sources. Frequent infections, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses as well as alcohol intake all interfere with zinc absorption or increase the body’s need for zinc {13}. Solutions 4 Health offers Zinc in 15 mg and 30 mg doses as well as Zinc Chewables.


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  2. Spence J. D. (2019). Nutrition and Risk of Stroke.Nutrients,11(3), 647.
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  6. Johnston, C. S., Barkyoumb, G. M., & Schumacher, S. S. (2014). Vitamin C supplementation slightly improves physical activity levels and reduces cold incidence in men with marginal vitamin C status: a randomized controlled trial.Nutrients,6(7), 2572–2583.
  7. Levine, M.; Conry-Cantilena, C.; Wang, Y.; Welch, R.W.; Washko, P.W.; Dhariwal, K.R.; Park, J.B.; Lazarev, A.; Graumlich, J.F.; King, J.; et al. Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: Evidence for a recommended dietary allowance.Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1996,93, 3704–3709.
  8. Johnston, C. S., Solomon, R. E., & Corte, C. (1998). Vitamin C status of a campus population: college students get a C minus.Journal of American college health : J of ACH,46(5), 209–213.
  9. Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., Bozonet, S. M., & Vissers, M. C. M. (2018). High Vitamin C Status Is Associated with Elevated Mood in Male Tertiary Students.Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland),7(7), 91.
  11. Skrajnowska, D., & Bobrowska-Korczak, B. (2019). Role of Zinc in Immune System and Anti-Cancer Defense Mechanisms.Nutrients,11(10), 2273.
  12. Prasad, A. S., Beck, F. W., Bao, B., Snell, D., & Fitzgerald, J. T. (2008). Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate.The Journal of infectious diseases,197(6), 795–802.
  13. Maxfield, L., Shukla, S., & Crane, J. S. (2022). Zinc Deficiency. InStatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.