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What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition refers to a pathological condition resulting from inadequate or unbalanced food intake. Unbalance can be caused, of course, by insufficient food intake (undernutrition), which is the major nutritional issue of developing countries. 925 million people worldwide did not have access to enough food in 2010, which corresponds to one person out of 7. The major part of undernourished people is situated in the Asian-Pacific region, in Africa and Latin America. Africa is the only continent where the number of undernourished people is still increasing, with currently 30% of the population suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

However, everywhere around the world, another form of malnutrition, called the “hidden hunger” takes place. Overfeeding, affecting 1.6 billions people, is often associated with severe micronutrient deficiencies (such as vitamins and minerals deficiencies) due to bad food quality.

Worldwide, malnutrition is estimated to affect over 2 billions people, that is to say one third of the world’s population.

CHILDREN ARE THE MOST AFFECTED BY MALNUTRITION

Children are the most visible victims of malnutrition. In the developing countries, one of three children is malnourished, accounting for up to 50% of total children deaths.  More than 70% of malnourished children live in Asia, 26% in Africa and 4% in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 3 most common known deficiencies are iron, vitamin A and iodine.

CONSEQUENCES OF MALNUTRITION

Malnutrition in children is not only a major risk of death, but also has long-term disastrous effects on health, reaching far beyond metabolic disorders. It can cause learning disabilities, mental retardation, blindness and poor immunity (for reviews see (1, 2)). Malnutrition weakens the immune system and thus increases the risk of infections and diseases (3, 4). For instance, it is a major risk factor in the outbreak of tuberculosis (5). Nutritional deficiencies resulting from malnutrition are a also leading cause of stunted growth. For more details consult our article on the subject.

COMBINATORIAL MICRONUTRITION AS A POSSIBLE ANSWER

Based on the newest knowledge in nutrigenomics, a new generation of functional foods  adapted to the needs of a malnourished population will be developed. The field of applications encompasses international food aid programs and immune system reinforcement against infectious agents. Actigenomics is actively present in that field, mainly through its Foundation, which is leading a micronutritional complementation program for malnourished children in Rwanda.


1.    He Z, Sun Z, Liu S, Zhang Q and Tan Z (2009) Effects of early malnutrition on mental system, metabolic syndrome, immunity and the gastrointestinal tract. J Vet Med Sci  71: 1143-50
2.    Demmelmair H, von Rosen J and Koletzko B (2006) Long-term consequences of early nutrition. Early Hum Dev  82: 567-74
3.    Savino W and Dardenne M (2010) Nutritional imbalances and infections affect the thymus: consequences on T-cell-mediated immune responses. Proc Nutr Soc  69: 636-43
4.    Ambrus JL, Sr. and Ambrus JL, Jr. (2004) Nutrition and infectious diseases in developing countries and problems of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Exp Biol Med (Maywood)  229: 464-72
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