The New Hidden Hunger

In 2009 Nicolas D. Kristof wrote in The New York Times:   “…  one of the great Western misconceptions is that severe malnutrition is simply about not getting enough to eat. Often it’s about not getting the right micronutrients — iron, zinc, vitamin A, iodine — and one of the most cost-effective ways outsiders can combat poverty is to fight this “hidden hunger.”

Over 5 million children under the age of 5 die every year from the devastating effecrts of malnutrition.  Lack of proper nutrition in the early development years is to blame for issues such as stunted growth, retarded brain development and poor health in the lives of 55 million children worldwide.

Malnutrition affects more than 925 million people globally, including developed countries.

Although the picture that immediately comes to mind when malnutrition is mentioned is people with skinny arms and legs and ribs showing, the new face of malnutrition includes people in developed countries who eat plenty, but consume a diet of mainly fast food and processed foods.

Approximately 90% of the money Americans spend on food is used to buy processed food.  In the 1990’s we started putting “engineered proteins” in food stuffs and children’s food allergies went up 300%.

“young children are so susceptible to malnutrition because what they eat lacks essential vitamins and minerals to help them grow, remain strong and fight off infections.” – Dr. Susan Shepherd, Doctors Without Borders

“Nutritional deficiency has now become epidemic right here in America, where a significant amount of the money we spend on food is used to buy processed foods.  A recent national survey reports that “nearly the entire US population consumes a diet that is not on par with [MyPyramid] recommendations”. – The Journal of Nutrition1401832-1838, 2010 “Americans Do Not Meet Federal Dietary Recommendations” 

Even those Americans who have heard the USDA’s recommendation about eating fruits and vegetables find it challenging to do so.  To meet the USDA’s minimum requirement for fruits and vegetables you’d have to eat between 9 and 13 servings a day.  That quantity is staggering!  Part of the reason it’s so high is because the needed amount of vital nutrients in fruits and vegetables is decreasing.  Nutrient content of fruits and vegetables has dropped by 38% to 90% in some instances.

Because we’re not getting enough nutrition in our modern diet, even when our diet includes fruits and vegetables, many Americans have turned to nutritional supplements.  Approximately 150 million consumers in North America now take a vitamin/mineral supplement daily.   This is in line with recommendations by the AMA (American Medical Association) that it appears prudent for most Americans to take dietary supplements.   A recent survey indicated that 72% of doctors take nutritional supplements and 79% recommend them.  89% of nurses take dietary supplements.

But most people don’t even know the source, quality or efficacy of the supplements they take.   The vast majority of dietary supplements contain vitamins obtained from synthetically made chemical isolates from petroleum derivatives instead of from natural sources and minerals from inorganic or chelated mineral salts instead of natural sources.   Tests have shown that these minerals do not dissolve well (they are not soluble) in either the stomach or small intestine).

Real, food-sourced vitamin-mineral supplements are an important and necessary part of the global fight against malnutrition and an essential resource for individuals seeking the nutrition required to live a healthy and long life.

More information is available in “A Quick Guide for Evaluating Vitamin and Mineral Supplements“.

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