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Micronutrient deficiency in obese subjects undergoing low calorie diet

Antje Damms-Machado1, Gesine Weser1 and Stephan C Bischoff2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutritional Medicine, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany

2 Department of Nutritional Medicine, University of Hohenheim, Fruwirthstr. 12, ss70599, Stuttgart, Germany

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Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:34  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-34

Published: 1 June 2012



The prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies is higher in obese individuals compared to normal-weight people, probably because of inadequate eating habits but also due to increased demands among overweight persons, which are underestimated by dietary reference intakes (DRI) intended for the general population. We therefore evaluated the dietary micronutrient intake in obese individuals compared to a reference population and DRI recommendations. Furthermore, we determined the micronutrient status in obese subjects undergoing a standardized DRI-covering low-calorie formula diet to analyze if the DRI meet the micronutrient requirements of obese individuals.


In 104 subjects baseline micronutrient intake was determined by dietary record collection. A randomly assigned subgroup of subjects (nā€‰=ā€‰32) underwent a standardized DRI-covering low-calorie formula diet over a period of three months. Pre- and post-interventional intracellular micronutrient status in buccal mucosa cells (BMC) was analyzed, as well as additional micronutrient serum concentrations in 14 of the subjects.


Prior to dietetic intervention, nutrition was calorie-rich and micronutrient-poor. Baseline deficiencies in serum concentrations were observed for 25-hydroxyvitamin-D, vitamin C, selenium, iron, as well as Ɵ-carotene, vitamin C, and lycopene in BMC. After a three-month period of formula diet even more subjects had reduced micronutrient levels of vitamin C (serum, BMC), zinc, and lycopene. There was a significant negative correlation between lipophilic serum vitamin concentrations and body fat, as well as between iron and C-reactive protein.


The present pilot study shows that micronutrient deficiency occurring in obese individuals is not corrected by protein-rich formula diet containing vitamins and minerals according to DRI. In contrast, micronutrient levels remain low or become even lower, which might be explained by insufficient intake, increased demand and unbalanced dispersal of lipophilic compounds in the body.

Trial registration

The study was registered at (NCT01344525). The study protocol comprises only a part of the approved trial protocol.

Obesity; Low calorie diet; Weight loss; Micronutrient deficiency; Dietary reference intake