Summing up malnutrition's shame
Higher child mortality
Directly or indirectly, malnutrition is associated in the deaths of
over 6 million children under five in the world every year.
Impaired brain growth and development
- Iodine deficiency is the greatest cause of preventable mental
retardation in the world. Severe maternal iodine deficiency causes
deep and irreversible brain damage in utero. Less serious
deficiencies can lower a child's IQ by 10 points.
- Iron deficiency anaemia during infancy and early childhood can
lower IQ by about 9 points.
- Low birthweight can reduce IQ by 5 points.
- Children who were severely stunted by the age of two were found
to have IQs that were 5 to 11 points lower than those of children
who were not stunted.
- One study showed that breastfed children generally had IQs about
8 points higher than children who were bottlefed.
Higher maternal health risks
- Iron deficiency anaemia contributes to approximately 20 per cent
of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia.
- In a recent trial in Nepal, vitamin A supplementation reduced
maternal mortality by 44 per cent.
Lifelong physical disabilities
- Folate deficiency induces neural-tube defects (spina bifida) in
- Vitamin D deficiency results in poor bone formation, including
- Stunting is associated with obstructed labour in women and
generally with increased mortality and lower physical productivity.
Malnutrition impairs the immune systems of at least 100 million
young children and several million pregnant women, none of them
infected by HIV. Unlike the situation with AIDS, the 'cure' for immune
deficiency due to malnutrition has been known for centuries: ensuring
adequate dietary intake that contains all essential nutrients.
Greater risk of chronic disease
Research indicates a link between malnutrition in early life
including the period of foetal growth and the development later
in life of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high