Do you know how to spot a vitamin deficiency? This week’s Nutrition News covers the main symptoms of vitamin deficiency as well as the natural sunscreens you could include in your diet to support your skin’s health this summer.

Read the latest research here.

Do natural sunscreens work?

During the summer season, sales of sunscreen hit their peak but, with an increasing amount of information about the potential risks of some chemical sunscreens being made widely available, interest in natural sunscreens has been gathering momentum.

This article from has looked at the pros and cons of some natural sunscreen alternatives including food supplements. The article starts by reiterating that it is widely recommended to protect against sun damage by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, including UVA and UVB protection, however, there are a number of studies that show that some supplements may offer additional support.

Certain plant oils, such as peppermint, olive oil and coconut oil, have a sun protection factor, but this is relatively low when compared to traditional sunscreen, with plant oils offering a SPF rating ranging between one and seven compared to the recommended SPF 30+. Other supplements that could offer some form of sun protection and support the skin, according to recent studies, include cocoa, Polypodium leucotomos, astaxanthin, rosemary and grapefruit extract, and vitamin E. Though it is worth noting that the article specifies that additional research is needed and these supplements should not be used for sun protection in isolation.

How to spot a vitamin deficiency

Vitamin deficiencies can cause a whole host of health complications as vitamins are a vital part of staying healthy, contributing to the support of a range of functions within the body. For this reason, it’s very important to know what the main signs of a vitamin deficiency are as, without attention, they can cause serious damage.

This article by Healthline runs through some of the leading signs of deficiency, including:

- Brittle hair and nails

Brittle nails and hair can be a sign of biotin deficiency; a vitamin that helps the body convert food into energy.

- Mouth ulcers and cracks at the corners of the mouth

Mouth ulcers and noticeable cracks in the skin around the edges of the mouth are most frequently associated with a deficiency in iron and B vitamins, according to modern studies.

- Bleeding gums

Bleeding gums can be a sign of vitamin C deficiency. While this is rare if you eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables, many people who follow a western diet struggle to consume enough, which can lead to bleeding gums and even scurvy and a weakened immune system when not addressed.

- Scaly patches

Scaly patches on the skin and dandruff are apart of the same group of skin conditions that affect the oil-producing areas of your body. They can be caused by a number of things but poor nutrition can be one of them, with low blood levels of zinc, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) all being possible causes.

- Hair loss

We start to lose hair as we age but this process can be accelerated if you have a deficiency in zinc, iron, Linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), vitamin B3 or vitamin B7.

The effect of probiotics on mental health

We recently covered studies that assessed nutrition’s effect on mood in this recent Nutrition News article. Subsequently, another paper, as discussed in this Medical News Today article, has been published in the support of the effect that probiotics can have on mental health.

This latest research took the form of a review, which analysed the findings of 7 different studies, looking at the effect probiotics and prebiotics have on mood in those diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety. While the research’s authors admit that it was difficult to make a clear comparison, as the studies evaluated were so different from one another, they were able to make a clear statement on the positive benefit of probiotics on depressive symptoms.

While the analysis is positive, the authors stress that more research is needed.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.