International Congress Hidden Hunger
March 3–6, 2015, Stuttgart

What is hidden hunger?

Nutrition is not only filling the stomach. It is necessary to receive nutrient elements in adequate and balanced volumes. When one does not have adequate and balanced nutrition for long periods of time regardless of energy-protein intake or when quality, healthy and safe foods cannot be accessed, some complications may occur in the body. Symptoms emerging as a result of chronic deficiencies of vitamin, iron, zinc, iodine, selenium and vital micronutrient elements are generally called “hidden hunger.” Hidden hunger is observed more particularly in underdeveloped and developing countries. Chronic inadequate intake of vital micronutrients may not manifest symptoms for a long time. Therefore, diagnosis and treatment approaches may be delayed. As a result, the immune system weakens, physical and intellectual growth stunts, and even death may be observed.

Who are under risk?

According to the 2014 Global Hunger Index, hunger in the developing countries reduced by 39 percent since 1990. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 805 million people still suffer from hunger. Mostly, children and women are fighting. Without adequate and balanced nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the nutrient elements necessary for the physical and mental development of the baby will be inadequate and increase the risk of hidden hunger. Even though hidden hunger is observed in underdeveloped and developing countries, it is observed in developed countries as well. There has been an increased incidence of obesity, something often accompanied by imbalanced nutrition and a lack of critical nutrients in the diet.

What are the causes of hidden hunger?

Hidden hunger is a critical aspect of nutrition which frequently goes unnoticed. Only filling the stomach and keeping energy intake in desired levels do not show that other nutrient elements are consumed adequately. Diverse, quality, and safe nutrition which is rich in micronutrients will eradicate the threat of hidden hunger. According to the Word Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately 1 billion people are inadequately fed and 2 billion people have iron and zinc deficiency. Approximately 95 percent of this population lives in underdeveloped and developing countries. According to WHO, 7 million children under the age of 5 dies due to inadequate nutrition. When particularly the causes of the problem are investigated, these countries should be considered.

What are the consequences of hidden hunger?

The socio-economic effects of hidden hunger in countries are huge. With the growth arrest in children, anemia or iodine deficiency increase the health problems to be observed in the following years. Also, overweight and obesity in developed countries ease the emergence of hidden hunger and increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome. A decrease in quality of life of people along with the increased health care-related expenses and socio-economic burden will negatively affect the development of a country.

Hidden Hunger in Numbers

2014 Global Hunger Index indicates that 2 billion people in the world experience hidden hunger due to inadequate vitamin and mineral intake.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies constitute 10 percent of the global health burden.
Annually, 807 children on average experience a development disorder due to an inadequate intake of vitamin A, zinc or other nutrients.
Every year, 18 million babies are born mentally retarded due to iodine deficiency.
Iron deficiency impairs the health of 40 percent of women in developing countries. Severe anemia causes the death during labor of more than 50,000 women each year.
The Word Health Organization (WHO) reported that 450,000 children aged from six months to five years old die because of diseases associated with zinc deficiency.
World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Turkey, with countries like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, India, China and Pakistan, is one of the countries where the zinc deficiency is particularly severe.
Inadequate consumption of food of animal origin (red meat, eggs and specialty meats) is shown among the causes of zinc deficiency. Considering the nutrition distribution in Turkey, grains and grain products rank first with 37 percent, meat and fish rank last with a 6 percent ratio.


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