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Micronutrient Deficiencies: How Does It Impact India's Children And Youth?

National Nutrition Week 2022: Effect of Micronutrient Deficits On Youth And Kids

Written by Tavishi Dogra |Updated : September 7, 2022 3:49 PM IST

India's Hidden Hunger: Micronutrients are minerals and vitamins needed by the body in minimal amounts; however, their impact on health is critical, and deficiency can cause severe and even life-threatening conditions. The 'Hidden Hunger', known widely as micronutrient deficiency, is a fundamental concern plaguing developing nations like India. The deficiency impact is persistent in all age groups, irrespective of gender. Hence, there is stark visibility, especially among children and youth who are the next generation and the future of India. Dr Surekha Challa, Nutrition Expert, Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Bioinformatics at GITAM (Deemed to be University), explains how micronutrient deficiencies impact children.

Undernutrition As Per WHO

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) explains 'micronutrients' as compounds (vitamins and minerals) required in smaller amounts which are essential for the balanced production of enzymes, hormones and other substances required for development and growth. The deficiency of these micronutrients can cause serious health issues like anaemia, hypothyroidism, and blindness. In worst cases, it could amount to mental disorders, stunted growth, learning impairment, and even early death.
  • According to the WHO, 45 per cent of deaths in children under five years are linked to undernutrition. In India, hidden hunger affects children, youth and pregnant women, where 42 per cent of children below five years and 40 per cent of pregnant women are anaemic. Data suggests that India's 7 out of 10 children aged 6-59 months are anaemic. To unearth the reasons behind this colossal health hazard persistent among a majority of Indian children and youth, statistics point out some of the significant factors poor dietary awareness, low literacy rate, economic inequality and low maternal nutrition.

Impact Of Nutritional Deficiencies

The dreadful impact of malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies extends to the nooks and crannies of society. As today's malnourished children become part of tomorrow's working-age population, it impacts their earning potential and overall national productivity. This trend must be addressed early, starting with a streamlined mechanism to enhance food quality and availability. Since the concern is preventable, several measures can be taken to alleviate the problem, specifically at the grassroots level.

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What Is Functional Food?

Functional food is the need of the hour, where a proper inclusion of nutritious food will improve overall health beyond essential nutrition. Sufficient nutrition will improve performance and outcomes in studies and the workplace. Nutritional meal programs and plans at all levels, especially at school, are imperative for societal growth and wellbeing as they will directly impact learning, performance, happiness, productivity and life span among children and youth of the country. Proper nutrition from early childhood and the workplace can prevent hidden hunger, chronic diseases, and mortality rates and raise productivity. This is sure to increase national productivity and create a healthier India.

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