MANILA, Philippines – The images that come to mind associated with malnutrition and hunger are emaciated bodies with protruding bones or stunted children with bloated bellies. Undoubtedly, these are the faces of hunger.
But there is a different kind of hunger not easily seen that affects even those who may not even feel the physical pains of an empty stomach. It is called hidden hunger and it strikes at the very core of nutrition and one’s ability to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Hidden hunger is a form of malnutrition that strikes both undernourished and overnourished individuals, and affects close to 2 billion people worldwide. It is caused by micronutrient deficiencies. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed in small amounts in the body, and which are essential to growth and development.
Children and mothers from developing countries are among the most vulnerable to suffering from hidden hunger. Poor nutrition during pregnancy and during a child’s first two years in life significantly slows down growth and cognitive development in children. It also makes the body more susceptible to illness and even death.
The World Health Organization attributes micronutrient deficiencies – specifically in iron, zinc, and vitamin A – as among the Top 10 causes of death due to disease in developing countries.
Effects of delayed development are often impossible to counteract and have lifelong implications which prevent children from growing to their full potential. Preventive measures include ensuring that a well balanced diet of nutrient rich foods are given during this crucial period to both mother and child.
Click on the buttons on the nutrition infographic below to learn about the essential roles micronutrients play in health and development.