Malnutrition and health in developing countries

Müller, Olaf; Krawinkel, Michael
August 2005
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;8/2/2005, Vol. 173 Issue 3, p279
Academic Journal
MALNUTRITION, WITH ITS 2 CONSTITUENTS of protein-energy malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, continues to be a major health burden in developing countries. It is globally the most important risk factor for illness and death, with hundreds of millions of pregnant women and young children particularly affected. Apart from marasmus and kwashiorkor (the 2 forms of protein- energy malnutrition), deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin A and zinc are the main manifestations of malnutrition in developing countries. In these communities, a high prevalence of poor diet and infectious disease regularly unites into a vicious circle. Although treatment protocols for severe malnutrition have in recent years become more efficient, most patients (especially in rural areas) have little or no access to formal health services and are never seen in such settings. Interventions to prevent protein- energy malnutrition range from promoting breast-feeding to food supplementation schemes, whereas micronutrient deficiencies would best be addressed through food-based strategies such as dietary diversification through home gardens and small livestock. The fortification of salt with iodine has been a global success story, but other micronutrient supplementation schemes have yet to reach vulnerable populations sufficiently. To be effective, all such interventions require accompanying nutrition-education campaigns and health interventions. To achieve the hunger- and malnutrition-related Millennium Development Goals, we need to address poverty, which is clearly associated with the insecure supply of food and nutrition.


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