5 Common Deficiency Diseases in Nigeria

Common Deficiency Diseases in Nigeria

Deficiency diseases are disease conditions that arise due to the lack of an element in the diet, typically a particular vitamin or mineral. This article will discuss the common deficiency diseases in Nigeria.

Not every disease is caused by a vector, an infection, or a microorganism. Some are caused by a lack of a certain nutrient. Certain nutrients are so essential that a lack of them could lead to disease.

Most times, it is not as if people deliberately refuse to take these nutrients. Rather, it is that they do not eat foods that are high in these nutrients, and this is not always deliberate. This is why it is advised that you eat a balanced diet, as that is the only way to ensure that you supply your body with a lot of nutrients and vitamins.

Let us now look at some common deficiency diseases in Nigeria, and foods you can take to avoid them.

1. Iron-deficiency Anaemia

Iron deficiency Anaemia is a disease that is caused by a lack of iron. One study on the prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia in Nigeria found out that over 10% of children had this condition. Another review showed that the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia among pregnant women in Nigeria is significantly high.

Iron is a nutrient that helps with the formation of red blood cells. It also helps with the transportation of oxygen in the blood.

A reduction or lack of iron in your diet would cause the red blood cells to drop and also make it harder for oxygen to be transported by blood. This usually results in symptoms like fatigue, loss of strength, and a weakened immune system.

Menstruating women are at risk of suffering iron-deficiency anaemia due to the blood that they lose every month during menstruation. Pregnant women, young children, and vegetarians are another group of people who are at risk of iron-deficiency anaemia. 

To reduce the risk of iron-deficiency anaemia, eat Nigerian foods that are rich in iron, including red meat, liver, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, and so on. You should also go for foods, like cereals and snack bars for kids, that have been fortified with iron (this is usually indicated on the packaging). 

2. Osteoporosis 

Osteoporosis is a disease that is caused by a lack of calcium and magnesium. It is marked by softer and fragile bones. This increases the risk of fractures and reduced bone density. One study stated that a notable number of Nigerians suffered from osteoporosis.

Calcium is an essential nutrient that, among other things, helps with the formation and development of strong bones and teeth. Just like calcium, magnesium also plays a role in bone development. 

A reduction in the intake of calcium could lead to softening of the bones, which could then turn to osteoporosis. To combat that, one would have to eat some Nigerian foods that are rich in calcium like milk and other dairy products, boned fish, vegetables, and more. 

3. Scurvy

Low intake of vitamin C leads to the disease known as scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include internal bleeding, abnormal formation of teeth, and rashes.

A person with scurvy may also experience joint pains and have swollen/bleeding gums, weakness and fatigue, and so on.

Vitamin C is a very essential nutrient that helps to boost the immune system, increasing the body’s resistance to infections. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron faster. 

To prevent scurvy, you would have to eat certain Nigerian foods that are rich in vitamin C, including citrus like oranges, carrots, 


Rickets is a disease that often affects young children. It is caused by a lack of vitamin D. Rickets is characterised by abnormal growth of the bones and softening of the bones as well. This often leads to what we call ‘bow leg’ in Nigeria. 

One 1999 study suggested that the major cause of rickets in Nigeria is mainly the result of calcium deficiency and that vitamin D deficiency.

To reduce the risk of nutrients, you should eat foods that are rich in Vitamin D, like fortified milk, and fish, and try and get enough sun exposure. 

5. Protein–Energy Malnutrition

Protein-energy undernutrition, also known as protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), is a type of malnutrition that is caused by lack of dietary protein and/or energy (calories) in the body. Kwashiorkor, marasmus, and marasmic kwashiorkor are types of PEM that are common in Nigeria.

The prevalence of protein-energy malnutrition in Nigeria is very high. In fact, a study reported that in Nigeria, 22 to 40% of under-five mortality has are due to PEM.

This common deficiency disease can be treated by eating foods that are highly nutritious, high in calories, and rich protein.




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