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Malnutrition: A Cause or a Consequence of Poverty?

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In the 21st century, malnutrition is considered as one of the many health inequalities affecting humanity worldwide, regardless of their income status. Malnutrition is a universal issue with several different forms. It has been observed that one or more forms of malnutrition can appear in a single country ...

In the 21st century, malnutrition is considered as one of the many health inequalities affecting humanity worldwide, regardless of their income status. Malnutrition is a universal issue with several different forms. It has been observed that one or more forms of malnutrition can appear in a single country and/or in a specific population group.

It affects most of the world’s population at some point in their lifecycle, from infancy to old age. Worldwide, there are more than 600 billion obese adults and 462 million underweight adults. At the same time, there are 42 million children under the age of five who are overweight or obese and 156 million who experience stunting due to poor nutrition, repeated infection, and insufficient psychosocial stimulation.

Poor eating habits and inadequate nutrient intakes represent two of the most important factors that lead to malnutrition, which currently affects a third of humanity, and especially people from low- and middle-income regions. This is because, in these countries, low socioeconomic status limits the ability to afford nutritional food sources and increased health care costs. Indeed, poverty has been accused as the main and principal cause of malnutrition but at the same time undernutrition might deepen the influence of poverty and entrap individuals and societies in what is known as the “cycle of poverty”. In addition, social determinants, such as working conditions and access to healthcare, can also provoke malnutrition and further increase the mortality rate. Therefore, the former problems can lead to the deprivation of health and nutrition in several populations globally, but they might also result in diet-related noncommunicable diseases, especially in developing countries, where low income and bad hygiene habits further deteriorate this phenomenon.

Combating malnutrition is still one of the greatest global health challenges. Some vulnerable population groups such as infants, children and the elderly are most at risk from malnutrition. The first 1000 days from the conception to child’s second birthday have been considered as a unique window of opportunity to optimize nutrition in early life, with long-term benefits. However, there is still a long way for us to tackle malnutrition, despite the advances in science and technology in the 21st century.

A fundamental step would be to understand how the social determinants of health can be exploited to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in malnutrition and how we can reduce the risk of stunting, vitamin deficiency and undernutrition, especially in vulnerable groups, such as children with a high deprivation index.

Therefore, it is important to define the determinants -socioeconomic or not- that contribute to the emergence of malnutrition and suggest effective ways to address all its forms. This article collection would like to encourage the submission of review papers or original research papers that focus on nutritional education & health policy, social determinants of health, factors and consequences of malnutrition in different populations, as well as effective ways to prevent malnutrition from appearing in a global, country and/or local level.


Keywords: malnutrition, poverty, diet, eating habits, inequalities, low-income


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