Hidden Hunger

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 27, 2022, 5:52

According to the Global Hunger Index - The Challenge of Hidden Hunger, more than two billion people suffer from Hidden Hunger or micronutrient insufficiency. Micronutrient insufficiency weakens the immune system, inhibits physical and intellectual progress, and can even lead to death. It is often neglected or difficult to detect.

Micronutrient deficits are often referred to as Hidden Hunger.

What is Hidden Hunger?

Hidden Hunger refers to a more subtle form of malnutrition produced by consuming cheap, satisfying food low in vital vitamins and minerals. Even though the repercussions of subclinical micronutrient deficiencies are better understood and monitored, they frequently go unreported in the community.

Micronutrient shortages can occur even in communities where the food supply is sufficient enough to support the population's energy demands. Deficits are unavoidable when people cannot afford to diversify their meals with necessary amounts of micronutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods.

Prevalence of Hidden Hunger

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that humans require to boost cellular growth and metabolism. The most common micronutrient deficiency with public health effects is iron, iodine, and vitamin A deficiencies.

Other micronutrients, such as folic acid and calcium, have been proven to play a role in disease prevention or growth promotion (e.g., zinc).

Diagnosis in the community

The obvious external consequences of micronutrient deficiencies, such as anaemia or goitre, aid in detecting their presence. Subclinical indications are used to assess and track the severity of the disease.

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Strategies to address Hidden Hunger

There are two strategies that can be used to tackle Hidden Hunger -

Supplementation

Supplementation is a technical strategy in which nutrients are directly provided to the target population via syrup or pills. It gives an appropriate amount of a specific nutrient or nutrients in a highly absorbable form. It is the quickest option to control deficiency in people or population groups diagnosed as deficient.

Supplementation programs are typically employed as a short-term remedy before being replaced with long-term, sustainable food-based strategies such as fortification and dietary adjustment, which usually involve increasing food diversity.

Supplementation programs for iron and folic acid to pregnant women and vitamin A to newborns, children under the age of five, and postpartum women have been widely employed in India.

Since a single high-dose vitamin A supplement boosts vitamin A reserves for 4–6 months, supplementing twice or three times a year is usually sufficient. On the other hand, supplements must be ingested more regularly in the case of water-soluble vitamins and minerals.

Lack of adequate supply and inadequate compliance are frequently mentioned as disadvantages.

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Dietary Diversification

Increasing dietary diversity implies consuming more micronutrient-rich foods in both amount and variety. In practice, this means implementing programs to increase the availability, consumption, and access to a variety of micronutrient-rich foods (such as animal products, fruits, and vegetables) in sufficient quantities, particularly among those at risk of or vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies.

In disadvantaged areas, it is also essential to ensure that dietary intakes of oils and fats are sufficient to maximize the absorption of scarce micronutrients.

Hidden Hunger is a global problem that must be addressed immediately. The ways listed above can be implemented in different countries to curb the effects. About two billion people suffer from Hidden Hunger, and various countries are taking various measures to curb its impact.

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FAQs on Hidden Hunger

Q1. What are some of the fortifying agents present in salt that helps in curing Hidden Hunger?

The fortifying agents present in the salt that helps in curing Hidden Hunger are iodine and iron.

Q2. Approximately how many people suffer from Hidden Hunger?

About 2 billion people in the world suffer from Hidden Hunger.

Q3. What is Biofortification with respect to Hidden Hunger?

Plant breeding to improve the nutritional attributes of crop varieties by employing improved plant breeding techniques or genetically engineering the plants to incorporate the desired traits in the crop produced is known as biofortification.

Q4. In cases of Hidden Hunger, which nutrients are deficient?

In most cases of Hidden Hunger, nutrients such as iron, iodine, and vitamin A are deficient.