Overfed but undernourished: recognizing nutritional inadequacies/deficiencies in patients with overweight or obesity

Int J Obes (Lond). 2019 Feb;43(2):219-232. doi: 10.1038/s41366-018-0143-9. Epub 2018 Jul 6.


Overweight and obesity are highly prevalent throughout the world and can adversely affect the nutritional status of individuals. Studies have shown that many people with obesity have inadequate intake of iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, folate and vitamins A and B12, likely as a result of poor diet quality. Nutritional inadequacies or deficiencies may also occur due to altered pharmacokinetics in the individual with obesity and due to interactions in those with overweight or obesity with various pharmaceuticals. However, it has been demonstrated that the adult population in the United States as a whole is deficient in certain micronutrients as a result of the availability and overconsumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient processed foods. Poor nutrition may contribute to the development of certain chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, which is already more prevalent in those with obesity. Clinicians need to be aware of these gaps, particularly in those individuals with obesity who are undergoing bariatric surgery or taking pharmaceutical products long term to facilitate weight loss. Patients with overweight or obesity likely struggle to achieve a balanced diet and may benefit from consultation with a dietitian. Along with providing recommendations for healthy eating and exercise, supplementation with specific micronutrients or multivitamins should be considered for individuals at the highest risk for or with established deficiencies. Further research is needed to understand the factors underlying nutritional inadequacies in individuals with overweight or obesity, as well as the outcomes of treatment strategies employed to address them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Micronutrients
  • Nutrition Disorders
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity*
  • Overweight*


  • Micronutrients