Malnutrition and Its Effects

Malnutrition, or lack of proper nutrition which can result in a host of physical ailments, is one of the greatest problems the world faces today. Two billion people in the world experience malnutrition in various forms everyday, and it is seen as the number one cause of a host of various health problems. Additionally malnutrition is responsible for 1/3 of the child deaths in the world annually.

The following can contribute to or cause malnutrition:

  • Disease
  • Climate Change
  • Lack of Nutrition
    • High Prices of Food Staples
    • Low Agricultural Productivity
  • Poverty
    • Food Security
    • Low Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Payments
    • Food Deserts

The three demographics most at risk of malnutrition effects are children, women (particularly those who are pregnant and need to eat for two), and the elderly. Each demographic represents unique nutrition requirements. Women are found to be on average getting less food than the rest of the family for various economic and social reasons. The elderly often cannot feed themselves and suffer because of it. A proper diet for every age of a person’s life is vital to preventing malnutrition.

Vitamins and nutrients are required for proper growth and development in children. Kids can become blind from Vitamin A deficiency for example. GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) advocates for nutritional support via their 1,000 Day Window of Opportunity program, stating that, “good quality nutrition during this timeframe – from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday – makes a lifelong impact in terms of health and development.”

Their ability to learn can also be severely restricted by not eating enough or not eating the right things from their earliest days right on through their school days. If they cannot get them directly from food, it is suggested that supplements and foods fortified with extra nutrients be added to their diet.  A lack of good nutrition in their early years can cause permanent physical problems like blindness or a decrease in cognitive and motor functions.

Children can experience hypoglycemia just from not eating for 4-6 hours let alone is food is scarce for longer than that. Overall malnutrition contributes to the risk factor for infections because it can weaken the immune system. Brain function and lack of energy can be caused by hunger itself but malnutrition almost certainly makes it the norm. Children who go to school hungry perform worse on tests and their grades suffer.

There are entire think tanks devoted to solving the problem of malnutrition in the world. The most important developments recently involve sending money rather than food to the effected areas when food is too expensive to purchase by the native population. Oftentimes by the time food is brought to an area, many people will have already died. Additionally, a concerted effort to reducing food deserts (i.e. locations where it is difficult to buy good quality and affordable food) will also make it easier for people to buy the food they need. Clearly finding the most effective way to help prevent malnutrition is key to solving the problem.

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