May 31, 2017 – Nutrition

  1. How does malnutrition and food borne illness contribute to the poverty cycle? How would you break the cycle for each of these? (can you?)

Malnutrition, according to the world health agency, refers to the deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy or nutrients. There are two types and this includes undernutrition, where a person has low weight for their age and micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity, where they are overweight. Around 1.9 billion people are overweight, while 462 million people are underweight. (What is Malnutrition) This huge disparity is due to a variety of causes, the biggest being food insecurity and poverty. When people are impoverished this restricts their access and ability to buy food to support their families. Impoverished people are dependent on their own ability to grow or access food and usually it is not as simple as it sounds to grow their own food, which also requires money and time. Additionally, if they are malnourished to a great extent they may lack energy to continue farming food or even trying to walk to the market and buy seeds or crops, and this again restrict their access and ability to buy food. You can see it runs in a cycle where they don’t have enough food, become malnourished, and then are unable to go get more food to try to reverse the problem. Breaking the cycle for this would be difficult as it would require significant intervention. Some solutions would be to promote things like breastfeeding, especially to reduce malnutrition in infants and children. Another would be to increase food diversification by giving away or teaching them how to grow micronutrient rich crops. Another would be to promote home and school gardening, so try to start things like community gardens and give away seeds and then teach them how to grow certain crops. Supplementation, especially of vitamin A would be another good idea where popular crops of each region are supplemented with vitamin A to reduce mortality and diarrhea mortality. Though these solutions all sound good initially, there still may be problems especially with things like culture and the ways people are already used to. Education is the best option, but educators will have to take cultural differences very seriously and consider what would be the most realistic and beneficial in order to actually make a lasting change. The malnutrition and poverty cycle does have the potential to be broken but it will require significant time, money and education to work.

  1. What are the challenges to treating/coping with the symptoms of foodborne illness in developing countries?

Food borne illness is caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemicals in food or water sources which cause over 200 diseases. These foodborne illnesses are highest in places like Africa and South East Asia where clean water is scarce and hygiene and sanitation are low, especially in the restaurant and food distribution sector. There is a huge lack of hand washing and education on proper food safety techniques, leading to the spread of bacteria like salmonella, E. Coli, and many others that cause serious food illness. As an example a study done in a small city of Iran found that 72.9% of food worker’s hands were contaminated with bacteria. After the people doing the study educated them on proper hand washing techniques using soap and water this percentage dropped to 32%, showing significant promise in hand washing education techniques. (Shojaei) However, implementing this same hand washing idea to other countries may not be useful because there is no clean water to wash hands with, and so it may actually make the problem worse. They would need to teach other sanitation methods in other places, or try to address the problem of clean water. When people get foodborne illnesses in developing countries they may display symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills resulting in things like dehydration of HUS. (Foodborne Illnesses) When dehydration occurs, especially in children, death may occur because once again they may not even have access to clean water so they have no way to replenish lost fluids from getting foodborne illness. They also do not have access to medications that may stop diarrhea like Pepto Bismol or over the counter medication and so many of their symptoms are left untreated until they die from dehydration or diarrhea. Foodborne illness transmission and symptoms again work in a cycle where a lack of clean water and sanitation causes food to become unsafe to eat, people then eat the food and become ill but do not have clean water or appropriate food to help them fight the infection. In order to prevent foodborne illness, we would need to get to the root of the cause and also educate people on proper sanitation methods.

  1. What do you think is the most achievable solution for malnutrition?

The most achievable solution to malnutrition would likely be staple crop fortification because it would add necessary nutrients to people’s diets without making them change much about what they are already doing. One of the biggest causes of malnutrition is due to micronutrient deficiencies like vitamin A, iodine, and iron. Adding these micronutrients, along with others, would help with the absorption of healthy supplements that would reduce fatigue, anemia, and things like diarrhea. In order to make this program fully effective they would need to do research on which micronutrients would be most useful, and which would actually be usable in their bodies. They would also need to make sure the program helped local farmers and they would have to educate them on using this new seed or crop in order to keep growing more and make sure it is useful to all members of the community. They could also partner with the farmers and do something like Mama SASHA where people are encouraged to come in and learn about proper nutrition and hygiene and crop growing techniques so that they can start their own gardens, and in return they would receive some seeds or crops of these genetically modified foods. The crops would also differ based on region and cultural preferences so that eating the food would not be a huge change to their diet. The idea of golden rice as an example was a good idea but it would need to be refined in order to fit exactly what their body can handle and what their body will be able to use based on what proteins their bodies already have. This solution overall is good but it would require significant time and money in order to make all the different type of crops, refine them to have all the nutrients available, and then distribute and educate people on the crops. Change will be slow but it will be a start to solve the problem.


“Foodborne Illnesses.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 01 June 2014. Web. 01 June 2017.

Shojaei, Hasan, Jafar Shooshtaripoor, and Masoud Amiri. “Efficacy of simple hand-washing in reduction of microbial hand contamination of Iranian food handlers.” Food Research International 39.5 (2006): 525-29. Web.

“What is malnutrition?” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, 08 July 2016. Web. 01 June 2017.



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