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The provision of nutrients for the health and growth of a living organism is called nourishment or nutrition. Imbalanced, excessive or insufficient intake of nutrients is malnutrition.
What is malnutrition and nutrition?All living beings, including humans rely on external inputs as nutrition for their life process, health, growth and survival.
Major requirements for metabolism and life processes are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
These nutrition requirements, depending upon the quantity required for human health, are also categorized as macro nutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients: Macronutrients are required in greater quantities for health and life process. They include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber and water.
Micronutrients: Micronutrients are required in smaller quantities for health and function of life processes.
Minerals and vitamins are the micronutrient nutrition requirements for health, the lack of which leads to malnutrition.
Though oxygen in the air is the very basis of health and life process in humans, it is not listed as nutrient due its abundant availability in nature.
The nutrition requirements of the higher animals are mostly similar regarding macronutrients and micronutrients.
However there are differences in the requirements of some of the essential nutrients.
The nutrition requirements can again be categorized as essential nutrients and nonessential nutrients.
Many organisms synthesize certain nutrient requirements in biological processes in their body in sufficient quantities.
Hence outsourcing these nutrients from diet is not essential for that particular organism for that specific nutrient (eg.vitamin C in the case of goat).
Essential nutrients: Essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and dietary minerals are some of the nutrients which are essential for the human nutrition, health and life process. The lack of these in food causes malnutrition.
These essential nutrients are to obtained from diet as either they are not synthesized by the human body or cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities (eg. vitamin C).
Malnutrition and healthThe imbalanced, excessive or insufficient consumption of nutrients is referred as malnutrition.
Malnutrition due to insufficient availability: Malnutrition due to insufficiency in nutrition can be due to many reasons. Most important being poverty, high food prices, famine due to drought or blight of major food crop, chronic illness, antinutrients in the food, regional non availability, lack of breastfeeding in early infancy etc..
Inversely the food may be lacking sufficient quantities of certain nutrients. This is termed as unbalanced nutrition.
Dependence of single source of food is a classic example of this.
Malnutrition due to excessive consumption of nutrients: With affluence or plenty of cheap food supply, food may be consumed in excess of body's nutrition requirement. Lifestyles encouraging consumption of non-nutritious food, sugar and fat loaded foods affect health and leads to malnutrition.
Overeating is also a type of malnutrition. This can lead to health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases etc.
What are the dangers of malnutrition?It is estimated that nearly 60% mortality in the world is due to hunger or hunger induced malnutrition related deficiencies and diseases.
Malnutrition decreases the immunity and increases risk of diseases like tuberculosis.
Deficiency in the availability of certain critical nutrients like vitamins and minerals lead to poor health and deficiency diseases like, pellagra, scurvy, beriberi, rickets, goiters, cretinism, anemia and mental impairments.
Food habits encouraging the use of 'junk food' have increased the risks of cancer, type 2 diabetes, poor immunity and heart diseases.
What is to be done to fight malnutrition?The whole world is producing more food than the nutrition requirement of the world population. Malnutrition can be overcome by food aid to under-developed countries, supply of fortified food to populations in risk nutrition and publicity and campaign efforts at all levels for promoting balanced nutrition for good health.
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