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Malnutrition – The Effects Remain

7:34 am

Malnutrition is often perceived to be linked to starvation and underweight children. However, rarely do we realize how long-term and widespread the effects of malnutrition can be. Not only does its problematic influence remain with children into their adulthood, but the traces continue to have an impact on future generations. Here, we will attempt to highlight the ways in which this pattern begins.

Child Malnutrition

The effects of malnutrition on the lives of children are many. The effects of malnutrition on childhood include:

  • Child malnutrition is the single biggest contributor to under-five mortality due to greater susceptibility to infections and slow recovery from illness.
  • One of the major consequences of malnutrition is stunting, which involves the inability of a child to grow normally, so that both height and weight are well below normal in comparison to other children of that age. Stunted growth can be lifelong, meaning that the child may never be able to achieve a normal height or weight.
  • Malnutrition can also have an adverse impact on the brain development and intellectual capacity of children in the early stages of life.

Maternal Malnutrition

The focus of malnutrition largely seems to be revolving around children. Many a times, we forget that the effects and symptoms we see stem from the nutritional condition of the mother. The impact that malnutrition has on both the mother and the child include:

  • For the mother herself, malnutrition increases the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes including obstructed labour, premature or low-birth-weight babies and postpartum haemorrhage. Severe anaemia during pregnancy is linked to increased mortality at labour.
  •  Furthermore, a chronically malnourished woman is more likely to give birth to babies with similar nutritional deficiencies.

Generational Impact

Just as malnutrition is not a problem that can be solved immediately, the effects too do not go away quickly. The impact that malnutrition has on people passes on through generations, its traces influencing the lives of families in the future.

  • One of the major ways in which malnutrition has a long term impact is through the adverse effects it has on cognitive abilities and IQ. Child malnutrition has been found to impact education attainment and is linked to low IQs.
  • Studies show that stunted children in the first two years of life have lower cognitive test scores, delayed enrolment, higher absenteeism and more class repetition compared with non stunted children. Vitamin A deficiency reduces immunity and increases the incidence and gravity of infectious diseases resulting in increased school absenteeism.
  • Low IQ and cognitive abilities can mean that the impact lasts for generations to come, as the achievements and abilities of adults influence the lives of their children.

Therefore, instead of viewing Malnutrition as an issue that can be analyzed only in terms of statistics and data, it is important to delve deeper into its causes and preventions, so that we can better understand how to counter this pervasive problem that has such severe and practically permanent effects.

Sources of Information:

TheConversation: Maternal malnutrition affects future generations. Kenya must break the cycle

HerHaleness: Effects of Malnutrition during Pregnancy

Livestrong: How Malnutrition Affects Learning & Working

Livestrong: Effects of Malnutrition on Children