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Malnutrition

 

 

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.