In this article, we shall learn and understand current issues in nutrition.
Current issues in nutrition
Problems related to nutrition are actually termed as ‘Malnutrition’. Malnutrition is a condition that results from eating a diet in which one or more nutrients are either not sufficient or too much such that the diet causes health diseases. It generally concerns under-nutrition resulting from insufficient consumption, excessive loss, or poor absorption of nutrients. It may involve the deficiency of calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, or vitamins. The type of nutrition does not contain adequate nutrient is termed as under-nutrition or under-nourishment while too much is called overnutrition. Most commonly, malnourished people either do not have enough calories in their food, or eat a diet that lacks proteins, vitamins, or trace minerals. Malnutrition weakens the immune system, impairs physical and mental health, retard growth, slows thinking ability, and affects fetal development. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), malnutrition contributes to the deaths of more than 6 million children (under the age of 5) each year. More-over the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, within the next few years, diseases due to malnutrition will become the major global causes of mortality.
Under-nutrition is the most common type of malnutrition. It generally occurs due to a lack of high-quality food. This is often related to high food prices and poverty. Lack of breastfeeding may cause a number of infectious diseases such as, gastroenteritis, malaria, measles, and pneumonia which increase nutrient requirements. During pregnancy, due to the body’s increased need deficiencies may become more common. In some developing countries, over-nutrition in the form of obesity is starting to present within the same communities as under-nutrition. Other causes of malnutrition are anorexia nervosa and bariatric surgery. General forms of malnutrition involve protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), mineral deficiency disease (MDD), and over-intake of nutrients (OIN).
- Protein-Energy Malnutrition (PEM)
Protein-Energy malnutrition includes inadequate availability or absorption of energy and protein in the body. It is the leading cause of death in children in developing countries. Generally, there are two types of diseases that may cause due to protein-Energy malnutrition e.g. marasmus and Kwashiorkor.
Marasmus: This disease usually occurs between the age of six months to one year. In this condition, children lose all their body fat as well as muscle strength and acquire a skeletal shape. Children with marasmus exhibit poor growth and look small of their age.
Kwashiorkor: This problem is due to protein deficiency at the age of about 12 months when breastfeeding is discontinued. It may also occur at any time during a child’s growing year. Children may grow normal height but are physically thin, because of the deficiency of protein.
- Mineral Deficiency Disease
Diseases resulting from the deficiency of a mineral are relatively rare among humans. Mineral deficiency is the shortage of dietary minerals, the micro-nutrients that are needed for an organism’s proper health, That causes due to poor diet, impaired uptake of minerals that are consumed, or dysfunction in the organism’s use of the mineral after it is absorbed. There are two diseases that result from Mineral Deficiency Disease i.e. (a) Goiter (b) Anemia
Goiter: It is a condition that is caused by an inadequate amount of iodine in the diet. Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to produce hormones that control the body’s normal functioning and growth. In this condition thyroid gland becomes enlarged and it results in swelling in the neck region if sufficient iodine is not present in a person’s food.
Anemia: It is the most common of all mineral deficiency diseases. The term anemia literally means “lack of blood”. It occurs when the number of red blood cells reduced to normal. The hemoglobin molecule contains a single atom of iron at its center. If the body fails to acquire the normal amount of iron, an adequate number of hemoglobin molecules are not formed. In this condition, red blood cells do not play their function. The patient becomes weak and there is a shortage of oxygen supply to the body’s cells.
- Over-intake of Nutrients (OIN)
It is a type of malnutrition in which more nutrients are taken than the amount required for normal growth, development, and metabolism. The effects of over-intake of nutrients are usually intensified when there is a reduction in daily physical activities. Over-intake of nutrients causes a number of health problems. For example, a high intake of carbohydrates and fats may lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disorders. Similarly high dose of vitamin A results, loss of appetite and liver diseases. Excess intake of vitamin D leads to the deposition of calcium in various tissues in the body. Iron poisoning is caused by the excess intake of iron and normally refers to an acute overload rather gradual one. The term iron poisoning also named iron toxicity or iron overdose, primarily co-ordinated with young children who consumed large quantities of iron supplement pills which resemble sweets and are widely used, including by pregnant women. About 3 grams is lethal for two years old.
TREATMENT FOR MALNUTRITION
Treatment for malnutrition (under-nutrition) actually depends on the underlying cause and how a malnourished person is. In order to prevent malnutrition, a dietitian will advise you about dietary changes that can be helpful for better health. He may also suggest;
- Having a healthier as well as more balanced diet.
- Eating fortified food that contains extra nutrients.
- Snacking between meals.
- Having drinks that contain extra calories.
- Getting supermarket deliveries at home.
If these measures are not sufficient, taking extra nutrients in the form of supplements may be recommended. These should only be taken on the advice of a healthcare professional.
TREATING MALNUTRITION IN CHILDREN
In children, malnutrition is often caused by long-term health conditions, for which hospital treatment is needed. But this is not the case for all children with malnutrition.
This type of treatment may include:
- Dietary changes, such as eating foods high in energy and nutrients.
- Support of families to help them manage factors affecting the child’s nutritional intake.
- Vitamins and mineral supplements.
- Treatment for any underlying medical condition causing malnutrition.
- High-energy and protein nutritional supplements, if the other treatments are not enough on their own.
It is important to note that the treatment is monitored regularly in order to make sure it is working properly. Weight and height measurements will be taken, and a child will be referred to specialist services if there is no improvement.