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Nutrition, Malnutrition and Fitness: Facts and Realities

Updated on October 21, 2019
Sikandar Azam profile image

The writer is a Master of Science in Development Studies. He has a thorough knowledge of conflict and peace issues. .

A study conducted by FAO (2015) revealed that between 2010-2012, every eighth person of the world is undernourished where the share of the developing countries is 98 per cent. Food security refers to “all times access to sufficient, adequate, and safe food” while insufficient access and production are called food insecurity. Food insecure people are those who do not grow or unable to purchase enough adequate food. Nutritional deviation leads to overweight and obesity. Researchers have pointed towards a strong link between poverty and malnutrition. Susilowati and Karyadi (2002) elaborate that “poverty exists where basic needs are not fulfilled, and there is little power, little choice, and lack of control of resources. Poverty is more related to human rights than to welfare.”

Good human health is a blessing for all the people right from birth till the last breath. Plant and animal foods with their various components are considered vehicles that deliver nourishment to human healthiness. The attainment of such nourishment hinge on and covers the entire variation of the food supply. Nutrition is a vital factor that not only ensures the growth and development of humans, but it also prevents diseases before its occurrence. Likewise, it is considered central to good human health and its functionality.

The Case of Pakistan

Being a part of South Asia, malnutrition is relatively predominant in Pakistan. Malnutrition, infants’ mortality, and stunted growth of children have been the most serious health issues in Pakistan which have been mistreated intentionally over the past four decades. The country is trailing 3 per cent of its GDP to stunting every year, the percentage is greater than spending on education by the present government. Approximately 10 million Pakistani children suffer from stunting. Only 38 per cent of the children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. As a result, more than half the children under five years of age are deficient in vitamin A, 40 per cent are deficient in both zinc and vitamin D, and nearly 62 per cent are anaemic. 8 out of 10 children in Pakistan do not eat the right type and quantity of food (UNICEF, 2019). Researchers suggest that every pregnant woman needs a diverse diet rich in vitamins and minerals which is not in the sight in Pakistani case.

Research in Nutrition

It is only recently that research has fully endorsed the importance of nutrition as a solution to certain social, economic, and environmental problems. Researchers are of the view that poor diet and inactiveness cause 310,000 to 580,000 deaths per year. A survey conducted by Healthy People (2010) stated that 75% of Americans do not eat enough vegetables, fruits, and consume too much-saturated fat. The research about nutrition revealed that, if applied, good strategies can help prevent both infectious and noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

Malnutrition Facts

In today's world, there are 165 million malnourished children under five years of age. Malnutrition is considered a reason for half of all childhood deaths around the world. Almost 30% of the world’s children are considered as stunted and 19% are considered underweight due to improper nutrition. Breast milk is not only accredited as a complete source of nutrition for infants, but it also offers numerous benefits for the mothers. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of chronic diseases like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood cancers. Despite its vitality, only 64% of mothers in the US breastfeed their offspring and only 29% continue this practice up to six months.

The Role of Behaviour

Regular inactivity is also considered as an obstacle to fitness. Physically inactive people are twice exposed to heart diseases than those who engaged with regular physical activities. Obesity and hypertension can be covered through regular physical activity. Poor dietary habits together with physical inactivity have adverse health outcomes which could be countered from interventions designed to eating habits and to increase activity levels. These intervention programs are of three types: health promotion, primary prevention, and secondary prevention. The motive behind is to promote an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits early in life. Another vital motive is to maintain these positive behaviours throughout life. The best strategies are a) to increase physical activities through exercise, b) to promote breastfeeding, c) to increase food and vegetable consumption, and d) to reduce television viewing time.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet should give us the required amount of energy (calories or kilojoules), from foods and drinks to maintain energy balance. Energy balance is where the calories consumed in from the diet are equal to the calories utilised by the body. We need these calories to perform everyday tasks such as walking and moving about, but also for all the functions of the body, we may not even think about. Other processes like breathing, pumping blood around the body and thinking also require calories. So, foods and drinks provide the calories we need to spend our daily lives, but consuming more calories than we need over a period of time will cause weight gain which will negatively affect our health. This is because, any extra calories we consume but we don’t use, will just be stored as fat.

Study shows that over 50% of adults in the UK are overweight or obese. There is also a huge concern about childhood obesity, where 1 in 3 children aged 4-5, and 1 in 5 children aged 10-11, are overweight or obese. Overweightedness in children increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers in adulthood. So, maintaining a healthy weight is really important for health.

Required Amount of Energy

How much energy you need from foods and drinks depends on many different things, such as how much active you are or in other words how you spend your day. But, on average: a woman should take around 2000 calories a day while a man should take at least 2500 calories each day. Eating only as many calories as you need will help to maintain a healthy weight. However, the foods and drinks you choose need to be the right ones, and in the right proportions to stay healthy. Having this balance in your diet can be achieved by following the good habits not only in diet but also in physical activities.

According to the healthy eating model, the foods and drinks we consume are divided into five main groups, each one is distributed in different proportions. These groups are a) fruit and vegetables, b) Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, and other starch-containing carbohydrates, c) beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and all other proteins, d) dairy and its alternatives, e) oils and spreads. None of these food groups needs to or should be excluded. Cutting out a whole food group, for instance, avoiding starchy carbohydrates could reduce the intake of key nutrients like dietary fibre and B vitamins.

The size of each group shows what proportion these foods should make up in our diet. Most of what we eat should come from ingredients shown in the two biggest food groups - starchy carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables. The beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins group, and the dairy and alternatives group are smaller, showing that we should eat foods from these groups in moderate amounts. The oils and spreads group illustrates that although some fat is essential in a healthy, balanced diet; we are generally eating too much-saturated fat. Most of the fat in our diet should come from unsaturated oils and spreads, but all these foods are high in calories and so should only be eaten in small amounts.

Protect Your Family

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Sikandar Azam


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