You had probably thought to yourself (seeing the title), how hunger could be hidden.
Of course, we feel the pain when the stomach secretes acid as a result of absent of food in the stomach. But, there is a health condition that has devastating effects termed “hidden hunger”.
Hidden hunger can be seen as a form of malnutrition. It is a state at which essential vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iodine, vitamin A, and iron are deficient in the human body.
This condition comes without overt signs and symptoms, and have health consequences. These consequences would often go unnoticed until irreversible damages have already occurred in the body which is why it is referred to as hidden hunger.
It is also known as Micronutrient Deficiencies, and affects over 2 billion individuals, or one in three people globally. Factors such as poor diet, increased micronutrient needs, and health problems such as diseases, infections, or parasites are responsible for hidden hunger.
Micronutrient deficiencies is largely caused by eating food that is cheap and filling but lacks essential vitamins and micronutrients and can exist in communities where food supply is sufficient for its populace.
Causes Of Hidden Hunger
- Poor diet: Constant consumption of staple crop food such as cassava, maize, rice, wheat which provide large share of energy and low amount of essential vitamins mostly results in hidden hunger. When people especially due to financial status cannot afford to diversify their diets with adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables or animal source of micronutrients, deficiency becomes inevitable.
- Impaired absorption: This can be caused by infection or parasites which can lead to loss and increased need of micronutrients. This spreads easily in unhealthy environments of poor sanitation, water, and hygiene conditions.
Women and children have greater need of micronutrients. The nutritional status of a woman around the time of conception and pregnancy has a long time effect on the growth and development of the fetus. The formative years of life is a very critical period for growth and development and requires an adequate supply of micronutrients for effective growth and development of children. Some babies appear too small for their gestational age, goiter, premature births, growth restrictions of several organs are overt results of hidden hunger.
Consequences Of Hidden Hunger
• Low birth rate
• High mortality rate
• Impaired mental development
• Reduced mental capacity
• Reduced learning capacity
• Vulnerability to infections
• Increase perinatal complications.
Solutions To Hidden Hunger
- Supplementation: is a technical approach where nutrients are delivered to the populace in the form of syrup or pills.
- Fortification: refers to the addition of these micronutrients to staple or processed foods so that consumers can get the required amount of nutrients.
- Biofortification: This involves breeding food crops to increase their micronutrient contents. This is done by genetically modifying plants to produce desired nutrients in crops.
- Diversifying diets: is a way of increasing both quantity and range of micronutrients food consumption. It ensures healthy diets containing adequate micronutrients needed by the body.
We have the responsibility of ensuring we eat healthy and diversifying what we eat so that micronutrient deficiency could be eradicated. The cost of fortifying and biofortification of food is quite expensive and yet to reach the general populace at affordable rates. Hence, we are advised to encourage home gardening, educate others on infant/young child feeding practices, food preparation, storage and preservation to prevent nutrient loss.
If you weren’t purposeful about your diet in 2021, 2022 presents another opportunity. Together we can expose hidden hunger and grow a healthy and smart nation. Have a great week.