The Connection Between Obesity and Nutritional Deficiencies

May 15, 2020 | Obesity

Feeling full doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating well. Learn more about the connection between obesity and nutritional deficiencies. 

When people think about malnutrition, they often envision someone who is extremely underweight. However, not getting enough to eat is only one picture of the problem. You can also experience malnutrition if you don’t eat enough of the right foods or can’t convert the foods you do eat into usable energy. As such, many people who suffer from obesity also have nutritional deficiencies. 

It’s therefore possible to be overweight and undernourished — in fact, it’s more likely than you think. Here’s what you need to know about the link between obesity and nutritional deficiencies.

How Obesity Can Lead to Nutritional Deficiencies 

It’s important to remember that calorie consumption does not equal nutrient absorption. People who struggle with obesity may consume more than the recommended amount of calories per day, but the majority of those calories aren’t from nutritional sources.

The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates is an excellent example of this. Both simple and complex carbohydrates contain chains of sugar molecules that are converted into energy, but simple carbohydrates have no nutritional value beyond that — that’s why they’re called “empty calories.” If your diet primarily consists of these empty calories — fast food, cakes, sodas, and dairy products — you’re probably not getting the vitamins and minerals you need.

There’s also a connection between obesity, nutritional deficiencies, and environment. Numerous studies have shown that people who are food insecure or live in “food deserts” are more likely to be overweight. Food deserts are areas, disproportionately home to low-income, Black, and Hispanic communities, where there’s little to no access to supermarkets that sell affordable and nutritious foods. As such, 23.5 million people in food deserts are forced to get most of their meals from fast food restaurants. These meals are typically high in calories but low in nutrients, which causes people to gain weight. 

What does malnourishment look like? The most common vitamin deficiencies among people with obesity are vitamins D, C, and B1. Vitamin D deficiency is by far the most prevalent, affecting at least 80 percent of people with obesity. Symptoms of low vitamin D include bone pain, muscle weakness, and increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. There’s also growing evidence that suggests vitamin D deficiency increases your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, as vitamin D is a key to improving insulin resistance.   

How Bariatric Surgery Can Help

If you’re overweight and undernourished, weight loss surgery and the dietary changes that come with it can help reverse these issues. To prepare you for weight loss surgery, your bariatric surgeon and nutritionist will create a pre-surgery diet plan for you that is specially designed to get your body strong enough for surgery. This includes eating more fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins and cutting out empty calories from your diet. This helps you replace some of the nutrients you’ve been lacking. 

You’ll start losing weight steadily after your surgery, and it’s very important to keep your body strong during this transitional period. Since your stomach will be smaller, you’ll be consuming less food, which makes it a little more challenging to get vital nutrients from your meals alone. To compensate for this, your nutritionist might instruct you to incorporate supplements into your diet. You should at least be taking a complete multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B12. Take your vitamins, eat well, and exercise often, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the leaner and healthier body of your dreams.

Lose Weight, Get Strong, Feel Better

For more information about feeding your body with the right foods before and after bariatric surgery, contact the weight loss specialists at Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors. We want you to look and feel good from the inside out — and that starts with adequate nutrition. In addition to walking you through your weight loss surgery options, our experienced team will offer advice on how to make sure each meal is packed with nutrients to keep you healthy.