What is Malnutrition?
The human body uses food as energy and as building blocks for different
tissues and components in the body. Meeting the body’s needs
for energy and nutrients is essential for good health. If the body
does not get all the nutrients that are needed from its diet, it will
eventually lead to a condition called malnutrition. This comes in two
forms – under nutrition in which nutrients are under supplied,
and over nutrition, in which the body receives too many nutrients.
Both forms develop in stages, usually over long periods of time, which
if untreated can result in death.
Impact of poverty
One of the primary, and most insidious causes of malnutrition is poverty.
This results in hunger, which has devastating effects for children.
It can affect their mental and physical development for the rest of
their lives, thus deepening the poverty cycle as they have less access
to education and opportunities for work in later life. For adults,
hunger can affect their ability to work, as well as their overall health,
thereby increasing the difficulties in their lives. Estimates from
the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest that about 1.2 billion
people are affected by hunger in these ways.
Too many calories…
Vitamin and protein deficiency also cause people health problems, which
have long-term results. For example, many people in the former Soviet
Union and Eastern Bloc have sufficient calories but they lack particular
proteins, vitamins or minerals. This impacts upon productivity as well
as increased health care costs, all of which make it difficult for
governments to improve the quality of life. Meanwhile, over nutrition
affects a further 1.2 billion people around the world. This group have
too many calories in their diet – often in the form of sweet
and fatty foods, ruthlessly promoted by many food companies.
Obesity on the increase
A common result for this group of people is obesity, which is further
compounded by a lack of physical exercise. Countries like the USA and
Australia lead the world obesity rankings, where in the latter’s
case, 1 in 5 children are now classed as overweight. Yet ironically
obesity amongst the middle and upper class also often exists in the
very countries where hunger is common, for example in India. Television
is also impacting upon the world’s diet – by encouraging
the over-consumption of inappropriate foods via advertising, as well
as affecting the amount of time people spend in exercise.