The Many Faces of Malnutrition

Obese but malnourished
Photo credit kennethkonica via / CC BY-ND

To many people, the first things suggested by the word “malnutrition” are famine and emaciation.

But while food poverty is the reality for around one fifth of malnourished people across the world, the majority are actually obese – suffering not from food poverty but nutrient poverty.

Diagnosis of Malnutrition

The Global Leadership Initiative on Malnutrition (GLIM) working group has produced a consensus report outlining five criteria for malnutrition. It is titled The GLIM Criteria for the Diagnosis of Malnutrition—a Consensus Report from the Global Clinical Nutrition Community.

“We brought the international community together”, said Gordon Jensen, senior associate dean for research at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM), and professor of medicine and nutrition and food sciences at UVM, “to develop consensus criteria for diagnosing malnutrition that are simple and can be readily applied by clinicians and other health practitioners using available tools and methods in their region.”

Obese and Depressed

For those suffering at the all-the-bulk-without-the-nutrition end of the scale, a junk food diet can also lead to depression. The two conditions – malnourishment and depression – are closely linked. Lack of brain-essential nutrients coupled with inflammation is a mental and physical health disaster.

This link between culinary junk and mental blues was covered by the national press, including this take in The Guardian.

The Remedy

Healthy diet is at the forefront of tackling all these problems. One recent study looked at how women can enhance the development of their unborn child’s eyesight and brain function by regularly eating fatty fish during pregnancy.

“This may be attributable to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids within fish”, said the study leader, “but also due to other nutrients like vitamin D and E, which are also important for development.”

Meanwhile, a new cross-sectional analysis indicates that omega-3 consumption can help reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Other healthy ingredients cropping up as the focus of recent studies include turmeric, milk, and dietary fibre. But there was bad news for yogurt fans, with the vast majority of supermarket brands being loaded with added sugar.

Healthy, not Pricey

One of the enduring myths is that healthy eating costs more than convenience and junk foods. A recent analysis underlined that this is simply not the case.

Although you can indeed find plenty expensive “superfoods” and pricey organic produce, a basic healthy diet may actually cost you less than a reliance on takeaways, microwave meals and the other over-processed foods aggressively marketed across the brand-hungry globe.

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