Hypovitaminosis is an umbrella term used to describe several different types of vitamin deficiency. It is most often associated with hypovitaminosis D, a deficiency of vitamin D in the human body. Hypovitaminosis develops when the system is unable to absorb proper amounts of vitamins and nutrients, resulting in a number of different medical conditions.
One of the most common causes of hypovitaminosis D is poor diet and nutrition. If an individual consumes foods low or lacking in this vitamin, the conditions are set for the development of hypovitaminosis. Another major contributing factor is lack of sunlight. The sun is a human being's primary source of vitamin D, absorbed through the skin, and when one is not sufficiently and healthfully exposed to sunlight, hypovitaminosis may develop.
A lack of vitamin D can produce several different types of medical problems. One of the most common is compromised mineralization of the bones, in which the bones do not grow properly and frequently soften. This can lead to bone conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis. Muscle aches and general muscle weakness are another common byproduct of hypovitaminosis D.
Hypovitaminosis A is more often found in the animal kingdom, predominantly in reptiles and birds. It most commonly affects those animals who rely on seeds for their diets, as seeds do not generally contain an abundance of vitamin A. Animals that consume only meat are also prone to hypovitaminosis A.
A less common type of hypovitaminosis is a deficiency of vitamin C. This is usually seen in patients with certain types of cancer or other conditions that inhibit the body's natural rates of vitamin absorption. Vitamin C is prevalent in many foods, especially citrus fruits, and can be easily taken as a supplement in order to boost an individual's vitamin C levels.
There are several risk factors that can play a role in the development of hypovitaminosis. Age is a primary concern; as the body matures, its innate ability to process vitamins becomes compromised. Poor diet is another risk factor, as is obesity. In the case of hypovitaminosis D, individuals with darker skin are thought to be at higher risk than lighter-skinned individuals, since the lighter the pigmentation, the higher the vitamin D levels that can be absorbed by the sun.
To prevent hypovitaminosis, an individual is advised to take a multivitamin and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, it is recommended that he or she spend an adequate amount of time in the sun. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods like cherries and tomatoes can also help prevent hypovitaminosis.