Some Symptoms and Risks of Nutritional Deficiencies

I run a monthly nutrition session for SEED Eating Disorders Services, and this month we were looking at the risks and symptoms of deficiency in four of the main food groups: Protein, Carbohydrate, Fats and Water. With restricting eating disorders, and even simply amongst some people who are ‘dieting’ or ‘slimming’, there is often a fear of carbohydrates and fats in particular, and some believe that cutting carbs is a good thing, and we see this advocated in a number of less-than-helpful diets, and the same for fats. We need carbs and fats in balanced amounts. Some fats are necessary for good functioning and especially for the brain. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for your health, and when cut out of a diet can lead to health consequences. It is the saturated fats we need to avoid. However, danger comes when we become rigid about avoidance. To occasionally have a little saturated fat in something will not harm your overall well-being (of course, this doesn’t mean so for people with a literal health condition where they need to avoid all together).
Here are some of the risks and symptoms we explored in the nutrition session this month. Next month in the session we will be looking at vitamins and minerals and some deficiencies there.


Edema – swollen and puffy skin

Fatty liver – fat accumulation in liver cells. It is unclear why with protein deficiency, but has been suggested it is impaired synthesis of fat-transporting proteins.

Skin, hair and nail problems – thin hair, faded colour, hair loss, brittle nails, flaky and splitting skin etc.

Loss of muscle mass – protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance.

Greater risk of bone fractures.

Stunted growth in children.

Increased severity of infections and impaired immune system.


Lack of energy

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugars)

Ketosis – build up of keytones, which are partially broken down fats in the blood.


Dry/scaly skin – without healthy fats, water cannot be easily retained in your skin.

Harder for wounds to heal.

Brain function issues e.g. memory and mental performance. Increased risk of alzheimer’s and dementia.

Vision problems.

Omega 3 fatty acids – when low associated with depression, impulsive behaviour and anger.


Lack of water/non dehydrating fluids or too much dehydrating fluids can cause dehydration, which can be fatal.

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