is malnutrition? Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in
a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. In simpler terms, it is eating
inadequate proportions of food. An unbalanced diet means it is rich in a
nutrient and low in another, or even lacking of a substance. The term
malnutrition can be further divided into two branches. One is
‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low
weight for height) or underweight (low weight for age). The other, is any
overweight, obesity and diet related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Malnutrition affects people in
every country. Around 1.9 billion
adults worldwide are overweight, while 462 million are underweight. An
estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 years are overweight or obese,
while some 159 million are stunted and 50 million are wasted. Adding to this
burden are the 528 million or 29% of women of reproductive age around the world
affected by anaemia, for which approximately half would be open to iron
Many families cannot afford
or access enough nutritious foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes,
meat and milk, while foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt are cheaper
and more readily available, leading to a rapid rise in the number of children
and adults who are overweight and obese, in poor as well as rich countries. It
is quite common to find undernutrition and overweight within the same
community, household or even individual – it is possible to be both overweight
and micronutrient deficient, for example.
Individually, malnutrition causes
a lot of chaos. However, it also leads to other deficiency diseases. For
example—too little protein can lead to kwashiorkor, symptoms of which include a
distended abdomen. Also, a lack of vitamin C can result in scurvy. Scurvy is
rare in industrialized nations, but it can affect older people, those who
consume excessive quantities of alcohol, and people who do not eat fresh fruits
and vegetables. Some infants and children who follow a limited diet for any
reason may be prone to scurvy.
childhood can lead not only to long-term health problems but also to
educational challenges and limited work opportunities in the future.
Malnourished children often have smaller babies when they grow up. It can also
slow recovery from wounds and illnesses, and it can complicate diseases such as
measles, pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea. It can leave the body more
susceptible to disease.
Signs and symptoms of undernutrition include:
lack of appetite or interest in food or drink
inability to concentrate
always feeling cold
loss of fat, muscle mass, and body tissue
higher risk of getting sick and taking longer
longer healing time for wounds
higher risk of complications after surgery
reduced intercourse drive and problems with
in more severe cases:
breathing becomes difficult
skin may become thin, dry, inelastic, pale,
the cheeks appear hollow and the eyes sunken,
as fat disappears from the face
hair becomes dry and sparse, falling out
Eventually, there may be respiratory failure
and heart failure, and the person may become unresponsive. Total starvation can
be fatal within 8 to 12 weeks
assessment, I chose to research on malnutrition in Ghana. I not only found a
great deal of information on malnutrition worldwide, but also in Ghana,
specifically in children under the age of 5. Malnutrition frequency, height for
age % of children under 5 in Ghana was reported at 18.7 % in 2014, according to
the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially
children in Ghana suffer from health issues originating from malnutrition which
is an underlying cause of one third of all child deaths. More than one in five
children in Ghana is stunted. The situation is worse in the Northern Region
where 37 per cent of children are stunted due to childhood malnourishment. In
addition, 57 per cent of children under five were found to be anemic. Iron
deficiency anemia is a major threat to child health and a major cause of
maternal mortality in young women who carry their anemia from childhood to
branching from malnutrition, we have numerous deficiency diseases. I chose to
specifically look at anaemia in children. Anaemia in children continues to be a
major public health challenge in most developing countries, particularly in
Africa. Anaemia in the early stages of life leads to severe negative
consequences on the reasoning as well as the growth and development of children,
which may persist even after treatment. Many companies set out to examine the frequency
of anemia in under-five children in the Ghanaian population in order to help
inform and serve as a guide to health policies and possible interventions.
were numerous questions given as a guideline for what we were required to
research on. After thorough research, I was able to answer these questions in a
way that I deemed sufficient;
Does poor nutrition have direct effect on children’s
central nervous system?
studies have been conducted on children with anaemia under the age of five, in
order to zero in on a cure in the early stages. What I discovered, is that
Anaemia in children is of particular interest since it impairs their mental,
physical and social development; it causes negative behavioral and cognitive
effects resulting in poor school performance and work capacity in later years.
Research from observation studies shows that nutrients may play an important role
in the mental development of children. More generally, there is evidence that
malnutrition can impair mental development. For example, eating breakfast is
very beneficial for cognition if it contains all the necessary nutrients.
Could nourishment of the children in their
first fifteen years influence their academic pursuit?
all the research I conducted, many sites and sources had similar information.
Nutrition has a direct effect on a student’s performance and behavior in school.
A 2010 study found that undernourished 2-year-olds were 16% more likely to fail
at least one grade in school and enter school later than other well-nourished
children. The scientists behind the study determined that this could decrease
the child’s lifetime income by about 10 percent. The United Nations Standing
Committee on Nutrition says that even in mild or moderate situations, stunted
growth resulting from poor nutrition is correlated with poor academic
performance and lowered mental capacity.
Do children that are well nourished perform
better academically than malnourished ones?
this question was answered in the previous question where it stated; undernourished
2-year-olds were 16% more likely to fail at least one grade in school compared
to well-nourished children, I still did further research on this point. A study
done by the ‘Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences’ analyzes multiple articles
that demonstrate the effects of poor nutrition on school-age children. The
research showed that having a healthy, balanced diet improves brain capacity,
maximizes mental capabilities and improves academic performance in children.
On the other hand, the
research also shows that having too much junk food and an unhealthy diet
decreases academic performance by limiting the amount of information to the
brain. The brain is able to both retain and recall on demand. The information
also shows the danger of not having enough nutrition and the effects of food
insufficiency, which can lead to malnutrition as well as poor academic
Does poor nutrition in children cause poor
motor development, subsequent low activity level, apathy and lack of interest
In order for me correctly
answer this question; I broke it down into different parts. First, I researched
whether poor nutrition causes poor motor development. So what is the role of
nutrition in motor development? Nutrition is an environmental factor as it
represents access to resources such as food and water, but in contrast to other
resources like medical care or education, nutrition can directly alter gene
structure and facilitate the appearance of genetic by providing specific
nutrients and/or molecules used in directing the brain. If the brain does not
receive enough of these nutrients/molecules, it does not mature in the way it
is supposed to.
These special functions
require high nutrients such as folic acid, iron, zinc and even some special
fats. Moreover, nutrition can have direct effects on gene expression.
HOW CAN SCIENCE BE USED TO
There is the normal, simple
way of treating malnutrition—typically done at home—through the following
In most patients with malnutrition the intake
of protein, carbohydrates, water, minerals and vitamins need to be gradually
Supplements of vitamins and minerals are
Those with protein energy malnutrition may
need to take protein bars or supplements for correction of the deficiency.
The Body Mass Index is regularly monitored to
check for improvement or responsiveness to dietary interventions.
Those who have difficulty in chewing or
swallowing are usually given soft of pureed food for easy eating
However, many doctors and
scientists have started to come together in an effort to find a way science can
be used to solve malnutrition. A Dr. Mark Manary with the St. Louis’ children’s
hospital teamed up with a group of scientists to try and improve the
nutritional value of food. Researchers hope to create a bridge from greenhouses
and labs in Missouri to health centers and farms in regions where people die
Three internationally known
organizations based in St. Louis — the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center,
the Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital
— have formed the Global Harvest Alliance. The partnership’s aim is to create
inexpensive, nutritionally complete food to help the world’s hungry and
undernourished. Alliance researchers will look broadly at the best approaches
to fight malnutrition and focus on a few of them. They’ll seek to improve
enriched foods already used to treat malnourishment.
In addition, the alliance
aims to help testing and distribution of crops genetically modified to boost
nutritional content. They hope to provide the crops cheaply to farmers to
produce more nutritious foods. Dr. Manary, a pediatrician who will serve as the
alliance’s director, said malnourished children in Africa used to be
hospitalized and given fortified milk-based treatments. Manary, who has treated
malnutrition in Africa for years, provided an enriched peanut-butter mixture to
malnourished children in the sub-Saharan country of Malawi that has led to high
These days, that mixture of
peanuts, powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals is given to
parents to feed their malnourished children at home. The new alliance will work
to improve such home-based approaches in hopes of distributing them more widely
as well as lowering costs. In conclusion, this assessment has helped open my
eyes to just how dangerous malnutrition is and how many it has killed and/or
affected. However, if we all work together, we can minimize its death toll and
help to save many lives.