When you’re not hungry but starving for nutrients

Lies to more than two billion people around the world a sneaky deficiency of micronutrients that can severely harm people’s lives, called “hidden hunger”. When you suffer from hidden hunger, you may not go through a moment of hunger, but your body is still “hungry.”

Hidden hunger isn’t about suddenly eating an entire bag of crackers. It comes down to whether or not your food choices provide you with enough nutrients. Eating for “fuel” and “health” is important for what you eat, not just the quantity. You won’t fill your car with water when you need gasoline, and you shouldn’t fill your Marie biscuits only when you need a balanced diet of multiple essential micronutrients. The same thing will happen to your body as it does to a car – it will stop working.

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Many people suffer from hidden hunger – so much so that it is considered a global issue. According to the Global Hunger Index, about a third of the world’s population does not get the required nutrients. Recent statistics show that in 2019, UNICEF reported in Adolescents, diets and nutrition: growing up well in a changing world 80% of Indian teenagers suffer from hidden hunger. And it is not just rural communities that suffer from food shortages that suffer from hidden hunger. The American Chamber of Commerce Foundation says 1 in 9 Americans suffer from hidden hunger, and over 50% of American children do not get the required daily nutritional intake.

Hidden hunger can be caused by many things – from limited food choices, deficiencies, infection, and intestinal parasites to the consumption of prepared foods that lack processed nutrients.

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It’s everywhere, it affects every country, and it can come from multiple sources, but what is it?

Hidden hunger according to the study The Global Challenge to Hidden Hunger – Views from the Field, tells us that: “Deficiency of multiple nutrients, particularly iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A… which can occur without a decrease in energy intake as a result of consuming an energy-dense but nutrient-poor diet.” Some micronutrient deficiencies can make our skin dry, lips looking chapped, a little sluggish or cloudy, and not a global crisis. So why are some vitamin deficiencies worse than others, such as vitamin A or iodine?

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “the main underlying cause of vitamin A deficiency as a public health problem is a diet that is chronically insufficient in vitamin A, which can lead to low body stores and a failure to meet physiological needs. It also leads to “preventable childhood blindness, anemia, and poor host resistance to infection, which may increase the severity of infectious diseases and the risk of death.”

On the other hand, chronic iodine deficiency during pregnancy, for example, can impair the growth and neurological development of the child, leading to an increased risk of infant mortality, and the deficiency in children can impair motor function. Imagine how this translates as the child grows into adulthood.

It’s no surprise, then, that the World Health Organization refers to chronic vitamin A deficiency as a “public health problem” – not just a personal one. How does hidden hunger affect everyone?

Imagine societies forced to follow certain dietary habits due to a lack of food choices or shortages – such as those who rely primarily on rice or corn to make up the bulk of their diet. Neurodevelopmental deficiency may affect the entire pediatric population and the health of adolescents and adults.

Or imagine a busy professional working in the heart of any cosmopolitan city. Instead of balanced meals, they satiate their hunger with endless bags of chips and fried foods that can easily fit into their meeting tables. In this case, suffering from hidden hunger is not due to lack of choice but to environment, habits, food availability and time management. There are millions of these types of workers around the world, individually contributing to the global cause of hunger.

To understand the broader impact of hidden hunger, a research paper was published in 2008 titled Let’s say micronutrient malnutrition in India number to it now “Loss due to micronutrient deficiencies is costing India 1 per cent of its GDP. This amounts to a loss of Rs 27,720 crore per year in productivity, disease, increased healthcare costs and death,” he says. This is no longer a personal problem, but rather a collective concern as countries navigate their engagement on the world stage.

A huge global effort is underway to help reduce hidden hunger. The 2014 Global Hunger Index reported that direct supplementation of iron, folic acid, zinc and vitamin A supplementation was most beneficial. Efforts to deworm children and pregnant women have also reduced their risk of hidden hunger by ensuring that intestinal parasites do not limit their ability to absorb nutrients in their digestive systems.

The sheer scale of the problem, the locations it impacts, and the concerted global effort to tackle it can sometimes leave us feeling powerless on a personal level to combat it or in leadership to avoid it.

However, it is necessary to find ways to tackle hidden hunger because the side effects of sub-optimal health will become normal for many people if they are not discovered and treated soon in the world. Everyone deserves to feel their best, function their best, and see their future in as many colors as possible.

Therefore, it is an excellent opportunity to assess your health and make improvements.

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When it comes to your diet, try to cut out the eating habits that make you repeat foods. For example, instead of eating rice or wheat regularly, try rotating grain sources or buying sources fortified with vitamins or minerals. Second, every rainbow. Each color of the fruit and vegetable contains unique vitamins and mineral makeup, often based on the color. Instead of eating 5 colors a day – try eating 5 colors a day (white, green, red, orange and purple). This will force you to break out of old eating habits that may encourage nutrient deficiencies. Finally, ask your primary care physician for advice on whether or not you should have a blood test to rule out any micronutrient deficiencies.

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