Deficiency diseases


Malnutrition is a condition that results from eating a diet which does not supply a healthy amount of one or more nutrients. This includes diets that have too little nutrients or so many that the diet causes health problems. The nutrients involved can include calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins or minerals. A lack of nutrients is called undernutrition or undernourishment while a surplus of nutrients cases overnutrition. Malnutrition is most often used to refer to undernutrition - when an individual is not getting enough calories, protein, or micronutrients. If undernutrition occurs during pregnancy, or before two years of age, it may result in permanent problems with physical and mental development. Extreme undernourishment, known as starvation or chronic hunger, may have symptoms that include: a short height, thin body, very poor energy levels, and swollen legs and abdomen. Those who are malnourished often get infections and are frequently cold. The symptoms of micronutrient deficiencies depend on the micronutrient that is lacking.

Undernourishment is most often due to a lack of access to high-quality, nutritous food. This is often related to high food prices and poverty. A lack of breastfeeding may contribute to undernourishment. Infectious diseases such as gastroenteritis, pneumonia, malaria, and measles, which increase nutrient requirements, can also cause malnutrition. There are two main types of undernourishment: protein-energy malnutrition and dietary deficiencies. Protein-energy malnutrition has two severe forms: kwashiorkor (a lack of protein) and marasmus (a lack of protein and calories). Common micronutrient deficiencies include a lack of iron, iodine, and vitamin A. Deficiencies may become more common during pregnancy, due to the body's increased need of nutrients. In some developing countries, overnutrition, in the form of obesity is beginning to appear within the same communities as undernutrition. This is because the food that is often available is not healthy. Other causes of malnutrition include anorexia nervosa and bariatric surgery.

Efforts to improve nutrition are some of the common forms of development aid. Breastfeeding is often promoted, in order to reduce rates of malnutrition and death in children, and some efforts to promote the practice have been successful. In young children, providing food (in addition to breastmilk) between six months and two years of age improves outcomes. There is also good evidence supporting the supplementation of a number of micronutrients to women during pregnancy and young children in the developing world. Sending food and money is a common form of development aid, aimed at helping people in need to obtain food. Some strategies help people buy food within local markets. Simply feeding students at school is insufficient. Management of severe malnutrition within the person's home with ready-to-use therapeutic foods is possible much of the time. In those who have severe malnutrition complicated by other health problems, treatment in a hospital setting is recommended. This often involves managing low blood sugar and body temperature, addressing dehydration, and gradual feeding. Routine antibiotics are usually recommended due to the high risk of infection. Longer-term measures include: improving agricultural practices, reducing poverty and improving sanitation.

In 2018, There were 821 million undernourished people in the world (10.8% of the total population). This is a reduction of about 176 million people since 1990 when 23% of the world were undernourished. However, there has been an increase of hunger since 2015, when about 795 million, or 10.6%, were undernourished. In 2012, it was estimated that another billion people had a lack of vitamins, and minerals. In 2015, protein-energy malnutrition was estimated to have resulted in 323,000 deaths—down from 510,000 deaths in 1990. Other nutritional deficiencies, which include iodine deficiency and iron deficiency anemia, resulted in another 83,000 deaths. In 2010, malnutrition was the cause of 1.4% of all disability adjusted life years. About a third of deaths in children are believed to be due to undernutrition, although the deaths are rarely labelled as such. In 2010, it was estimated to have contributed to about 1.5 million deaths in women and children, though some estimate the number may be greater than 3 million. An additional 165 million children were estimated to have stunted growth from malnutrition in 2013. Undernutrition is more common in developing countries. Certain groups have higher rates of undernutrition, including women—in particular while pregnant or breastfeeding—children under five years of age, and the elderly. In the elderly, undernutrition is more commonly due to physical, psychological, and social factors, not a lack of food.

Reducing malnutrition is key part of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) "Zero hunger" with a malnutrition target alongside reducing under nutrition and stunted child growth. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) 135 million suffer from acute hunger, largely due to manmade conflicts, climate changes, and economic downturns. COVID-19 could double the number of people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.

Broader Problems:
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No Poverty
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
03.04.2020 – 23:47 CEST