DISORDERS OF NUTRITION
Malnutrition is a health problem found in all developing countries like India. Under nutrition or lack of adequate diet is a form of malnutrition which must widespread. The causes of under nutrition are many and often interrelated.
Poverty resulting in low purchasing power is one of the main causes of under nutrition because poor families cannot buy adequate food for themselves.
In some communities, especially in rural areas, nutritious food such as milk may not be available throughout the year. Thus, sometimes even though families can afford to buy nutritious food, non-availability may lead to malnutrition.
Ignorance of the relation of foods to health is another reason for the prevalence of malnutrition. For example, sometimes protein rich foods such as milk, eggs and fish are not fed to the child on the assumption that they are harmful to the child, even though the family may be producers of milk or catching fish themselves.
Increasing urbanization is another cause of malnutrition. A number of families flock from villages to cities, hoping of find better means of livelihood. Often, living conditions for such families are even worse than what they had in the villages. Overcrowding, insanitary environmental conditions, poor hygiene, contaminated water supplies are some of the problems encountered. In addition, not having enough food; decreases resistance to infections, and exposes the family members to frequent attacks of diarrhea and other diseases. This intensifies the problem because what little food is consumed is not absorbed but lost.
In poor communities, because both parents have to work to maintain the family, the children, especially the younger ones, do not have anybody to take care of them and feed them at regular intervals. Often, an elder child, who may only be a few years older than the infant, is left to take care of the young ones. Without supervision by adults, the children are not fed properly and may develop symptoms of one or more deficiency diseases.
There is thus a vicious circle which encompasses poverty, ignorance, poor housing, disease and infection and unless this is broken by improving the economic condition of the low socio-economic groups. Malnourishment of a huge sector of the population of the world cannot be eradicated. There is a close relationship between health, economics and social progress. It shows how poverty engenders disease which in turn engenders more poverty.
Foods contain a number of nutrients. When sufficient quantities of the right type of foods are not eaten, many essential nutrients are not available in adequate quantities to the body. This leads to the development of several deficiency diseases. Some of the common deficiency diseases found are protein energy malnutrition (PEM), vitamin A deficiency, anemia due to lack or poor absorption of iron, and vitamin B complex deficiency.
Protein Energy Malnutrition: Protein energy malnutrition or protein calorie malnutrition is the name given to various degrees of nutritional disorders caused by inadequate quantities of protein and energy in the diet. This is one of the most widespread deficiency disease in India and covers abroad spectrum ranging from marginal deficiency with loss of weight and poor growth to a severe deficiency in which the body may have developed edema or may have wasted away. Such deficiency occurs mainly in children below five years of age, when they are weaned from mother’s milk and the diet substituted does not supply sufficient protein and energy or protein only. When such lack has been prevalent for a long time in the community, the parents’ may fail to note the low weight and stunted growth of the children.