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Hidden Hunger! Am I Immune?

10-Oct-2014.By: Tunde Balogun


A balanced diet is one of the very early topics taught in both elementary and secondary schools. A child, from four years old, is taught different choruses and rhymes that drive home the importance of eating a balanced diet at all times.


A balanced diet refers to a diet that contains sufficient quantities of all food types in the right proportion needed to maintain healthy growth and activity. These food types are broadly classified into 6 groups namely proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, water, vitamins and minerals. The first four constitute nutrients that are needed in relatively large quantity while the latter two are required in very small amounts.


In the past, emphasis had been placed on protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). This condition was common especially in the developing world. PEM is a health condition that is precipitated by prolonged inadequate or disproportionate intake of protein and carbohydrate. Many people suffer from this condition either mildly or severely. No age group is immune but more susceptible groups include children under the age of five, pregnant women and highly stressed adults.


Today, even though PEM still persists as a result of prevailing socio-economic factors. Emerging findings have put micronutrient deficiencies (MNDs) as the most prevalent nutrition problem in the world. MNDs are silent epidemics of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report on MNDs estimated that one out of every three persons around the world suffers from MNDs. People of all ages and genders in both developing and developed nations are affected. It is a paradox to feel full, yet be ‘hungry’.


MNDs have far reaching health consequences. Micronutrients play very important roles to ensure that all the functions and systems in the body function optimally. Micronutrients are those tiny nuts and bolts without which a machine cannot put itself to function properly. They are involved in all biochemical processes taking place in the body, whether to digest the food we eat, to fight infections, to enjoy a peaceful sleep or other daily routines.


As a result, deficiencies of micronutrients have unqualified negative impact on growth, health and wellbeing. MNDs also increase susceptibility to infections because of reduced immunity. The risks of birth defects rise among women of reproductive age. Impaired physical and psycho-intellectual development has also been associated with MNDs. Because many may not have classical and definitive symptoms, MNDs usually persists for a long period with complains of lethargy and listlessness.


Experts say that in practice, one micronutrient deficiency does not exist in isolation. A lack of one micronutrient is typically associated with deficiencies of other micronutrients. Vitamins and minerals work together in a very complex way in the body to ensure that we enjoy optimum health.


Good and balanced nutrition increases your chances of avoiding MNDs. This should include daily intake of assorted fruits, nuts and green leafy vegetables, which constitute the primary sources of micronutrients. Nutritionists advise that fruits, nuts and vegetables should be eaten as close to their fresh/natural state as possible and not processed or refined. Three to five servings of assorted fruits and vegetables added to daily diet help to reduce the risk of communicable and non-communicable diseases.


Awareness is also increasing daily in the public space to encourage addition of supplements containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients needed in small quantities to one’s daily diet. There are a thousand and one supplements displayed on the shelves of pharmacies and allied health shops formulated to mitigate MNDs. The consumer is left with the task of identifying which is the most suitable.


When next you want to make the choice in the marketplace, some questions should automatically weigh on your mind: how ‘balanced’ is this supplement? Does this supplement contain all the essential nutrients in the right proportions to meet my daily needs? Will the nutrients be absorbed from my intestines and utilised or they will just waste away?


Maintaining good health requires a holistic approach. Other necessary considerations include the following:


1)       Enjoy having meals from unprocessed whole grains, rich in fibre content and with low fat.

2)       Sugar is sweet and salt is spicy. However, cut down on intake as you approach your middle age.

3)       You are not a log of wood; consciously engage in physical activities in the office and at home.

4)       The memory of electronic devices does crash. How much more human brain. Get adequate sleep daily. Ignore your surroundings if necessary and catch that badly needed nap.


Together, we can make the world a healthier village.

Last Updated: 13-Jul-2017 10:09 AM





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