8 Myths About Malnutrition

When we talk about the most important global issues we often ignore malnutrition, which occurs when you don’t get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep you healthy. Here are 8 myth-busting facts about malnutrition to raise awareness and help end its devastating impact across the world.

1. MYTH: Malnutrition is the same as hunger.

Fact: It is a common misconception that malnutrition means the same as hunger. However many people globally suffer from malnutrition, even if they eat enough to feel full. This is because their diet lacks nutrition. A child who only eats rice is malnourished as they lack the adequate vitamins and minerals to help them develop. Two billion people in the world do not receive the key vitamin and minerals that they need to grow properly.

2. MYTH: Malnutrition is all about being too thin.

Fact: While it’s true that many malnourished babies and children are severely underweight, it’s a common misconception that malnutrition only relates to being too thin. Children need nutritious food to grow and be healthy, but healthy food with vitamins and minerals is often more expensive than unhealthy food such as grains or carbohydrates. This can result in obesity, which is itself a form of malnutrition. 1.4 billion people in the world are currently overweight and obese, which is close to double the number of people who are hungry.

3. MYTH: Nutrition starts when a child is born.

Fact: Good nutrition should begin before a child is even born. Malnutrition’s most devastating impact is in the womb, when the foetus can fail to develop properly, and during the first years of a child’s life, when it can hamper physical and mental development. This means that the best time to tackle malnutrition is in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, beginning with pregnancy and ending at a child’s second birthday. Young girls and women in particular need to learn good nutrition, as it is the cornerstone for the future of their own children.

4. MYTH: The consequences of malnutrition are only health-related.

Fact: Malnutrition not only has a severe effect on health, but also on a person’s quality of life. For example, Adults who were malnourished as children earn at least 20% less on average than those who weren’t.

Malnutrition also causes stunting, affecting one in four of the world’s children. In developing countries this is as high as one in three. This means their bodies fail to develop fully as a result of malnutrition. What’s more, undernourished children are less likely to perform well in school, have a lower economic status in adulthood and are more likely to grow into malnourished adults.

5. MYTH: Malnutrition only affects individuals.

Fact: Malnutrition’s far-reaching effects are often dangerously underestimated. It can have dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth, and traps countries in a cycle of poverty. They may lose 2 to 3 % of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result of iron, iodine, and zinc deficiencies.

6. MYTH: Malnutrition is all about starving children in Africa.

Fact: We are often presented with images of starving children in Africa, and while it is true that many countries in Africa suffer the effects of malnutrition, it is in fact India that ranks highest for child malnutrition. One in three of the world’s malnourished children live in India, nearly double the number suffering in Sub-Saharan Africa.

7. MYTH: Salt is bad for you.

Fact:We actually need salt in our diet, and it’s good for us in small amounts.

Iodine deficiency is the most prevalent cause of brain damage worldwide, but if you add iodine to salt you can prevent any physical and mental problems. Universal Salt Iodization (USI) is a technical term for addressing iodine deficiency in a simple, safe and cost-effective way, and is a process that is still being implemented in many developing countries.

8. MYTH: Malnutrition is not as serious as other diseases in the world.

Fact: Malnutrition is the number one risk to health worldwide, and causes eleven percent of all disease in the world. What’s more, 50 percent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition. Each year it kills 3.5 million children under five years old and impairs hundreds of thousands of growing minds.

To learn more about how to end global malnutrition in our lifetime visit www.gainhealth.org

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