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In modern conditions, the healthcare is of significant value from the global perspective. A great role is played by nutrition because it is one of the areas that have a strong effect on population globally. Therefore, appropriate nutrition is a basic human need for proper health and development. Good nutrition strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of disorders. Traditionally, the global nutrition issues are dealt with by the World Health Organization (WHO) whose major goal is to improve the global nutrition (UNICEF, 2016). The world is faced with several nutrition challenges some of which are malnutrition and obesity that are the main reasons of such chronic disorders as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, appropriate nutrition is the key determinant of the health and well-being of populations around the world.
Historical Perspective of Global Nutrition
From the historical perspective, the nutrition issues used to be regarded as the human right to food. In particular, according to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), freedom from hunger can be defined as the human right (Holtz, 2016). The signatory parties of this agreement stated that the right to food has a direct relation to the person's inherent feeling of dignity. Also, this human right was covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations. This document states that “for the human right to food protection it is critical to ensure that others do not interfere with this right” (Holtz, 2016). Moreover, it is critical to facilitate a proper economic and social environment to promote human development and provide food for people in the emergency situations or in cases when they cannot obtain food by themselves. Therefore, from the global perspective, the appropriate nutrition used to be recognized as the human right.
Nonetheless, nutrition issue was perceived not only as the right to food, but also as the obesity challenge from the historical perspective. Obesity is a prevalent global challenge and an increasing number of transition or emerging market economy countries currently experience health problems that are related to the above-mentioned challenge (UNICEF, 2016). Obesity and overweight in both developing and developed nations provoke chronic health disorders and cost global economies hundreds of millions of dollars. Therefore, WHO Nutrition for Health and Development identified the main goals during the World Summit for Children in 1990 and the International Conference on Nutrition in 1992 that despite some changes being implemented in 2003 were still relevant in 2015 (Holtz, 2016). Hence, obesity is another nutrition challenge that was addressed at the international level.
During those events, the main challenges and measures for handling the problem of obesity were defined. The main problems that were covered involved iodine and vitamin A deficiency, starvation and nutritional deficiency disorder provoked by human-made and natural disasters as well as famine and related conditions (Holtz, 2016). Moreover, the identified goals required the reduction of undernutrition, particularly among aged people, children and women, prevalent hunger and starvation and some micronutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency. Also, the organization draws attention to the prevalence of poor sanitation, unclean drinking water, barriers to breastfeeding and diet-related communicable and non-communicable diseases (Holtz, 2016). Hence, from the historical perspective, nutrition challenges were identified on a global level along with their main effects and measures aimed at solving them.
It is especially difficult to overcome nutritional challenges for the most vulnerable groups of population. One of these groups is children and infants. Undernutrition and infectious disorders in combination and individually have a severe impact on children around the world, while around 35% of children die from these factors (Holtz, 2016). Every year undernutrition results in the deaths of more than five million children younger than five years of age (Holtz, 2016). Water plays a great role in children’s nutrition because lack of clear water and poor hygiene lead to malnutrition and may cause diarrhea. In this case, children often suffer from low weight and poor height gains. Another problem is the kind of malnutrition that provokes micronutrient deficiencies, wasting and stunting (Holtz, 2016). Therefore, due to malnutrition and undernutrition, infants and children below five years of age are under a high risk of preliminary death.
The other vulnerable group is childbearing women. Pregnancy is already a challenging state for women, but with lack of nutrition in developing states, it raises even more serious concerns. The most crucial nutrition challenge in this case is a folic acid deficiency. It can be obtained from green leafy vegetables, but a lot of pregnant women experience a deficit of this component (Holtz, 2016). At first, one would see no effect from this deficiency. Nonetheless, it often provokes birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate and spina bifida. The folic acid can be found in the essential water-salable B vitamin that is aimed at preventing the folate-deficiency anemia (Holtz, 2016). Therefore, pregnant women are also a vulnerable group of population that is exposed to the nutrition challenges.
The other vulnerable group is older adults. It was found that “there are thirty-six million of older adults in the US, and more than half of them are women” (Holtz, 2016). Among such a great number of elders, the insecurity rate ranges from six to sixteen percent (Holtz, 2016). Appropriate nutrition is crucial for older adults because otherwise they may develop different disorders or delayed recovery from diseases. In general, aging affects the nutritional status of elders. The nutritional status can be affected by the loss of teeth because it leads to the lack of vegetables and fruits in the diet. All these factors increase the malnutrition risk for older people and a great number of older adults also suffer from undernutrition. Nutrition imbalances in the diet can lead to the lack of vitamin B that provokes anemia or nerve damage, while the insufficient consumption of iron can also provoke anemia in the older adults (Holtz, 2016). Hence, the poor diet can provoke the problem of undernutrition that is in a severe condition associated with the low quality of life, disability, raised comorbidities, increased cases of hospital admission and readmission, impaired cognitive function, depression, sleeping problems, impaired skin integrity and raised mortality rate. Hence, with age, elders become greatly exposed to nutrition challenges that in turn provoke various health disorders.
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There are several types of nutritional deficiencies. One of them is the micronutrient deficiencies that include mineral and vitamin silent epidemics and mineral deficiency that negatively affect all people around the world and pose a serious threat to the person’s life. Micronutrient deficiencies involve the deficiency of such vitamins and minerals as folate acid, zinc, vitamins A and B, iodine, iron and others (Holtz, 2016). One more outcome of malnutrition is the iodine deficiency that provokes brain damage. It negatively impacts the mental health of children and decreases the rate of their survival. Moreover, during pregnancy, it can provoke congenital abnormalities, spontaneous abortion, or stillbirth (Holtz, 2016). This is a serious issue, but it is easily preventable and it is currently on the verge of elimination.
The other issue is the iron-deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency is a highly widespread condition that provokes anemia, the condition in which body produces the inadequate number of red blood cells. This problem has a great influence on children and infants as it limits their learning ability and causes impairments in the immune system (Holtz, 2016). Symptoms may include weakness, fatigue, and pallor, hair loss, sleepiness, poor appetite and depression. It is therefore critical to add table salt to the nutrition of children and infants to prevent this health condition. Another deficiency is pellagra that is prevalent among people who eat a lot of corn. Signs can be dementia, red skin lesions, and photosensitivity and it can even be fatal (Holtz, 2016). Nevertheless, this condition can be successfully treated with niacin supplements.
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Vitamin A deficiency is developed due to the inadequate vitamin A storage that is provoked by repeated or severe disorders, or insufficient consumption of food containing vitamin A. It is related to the decreased vitamin A levels and night blindness. It can provoke blindness among children and place them at a risk of other disorders and even death from the severe infections (Holtz, 2016). Pregnant women often experience this condition during the last trimester. Another issue is the vitamin D deficiency.. This vitamin is critical for calcium absorption, and teeth and bones translocation. The lack of it can provoke dermal lesions, osteomalacia, osteoporosis. The other nutrition challenge is the iodine-deficiency that is the main reason of the preventable brain damage in childhood. It provokes hypothyroidism that in turn can lead to the iodine deficiency disorder (Holtz, 2016). The successful measure against this problem has become the universal iodization of salt.
Zinc deficiency can occur among patients with hepatic insufficiency, those who take diuretics, as well as patients with diabetes mellitus, malabsorption problems, chronic renal failure, and sickle cell disorder, patients suffering from high levels of stress and the elderly institutionalized patients. It provokes low birth weight and fetal malformations (Holtz, 2016). A good solution to this problem is to provide micronutrients containing zinc. Protein-energy malnutrition provokes children's deaths in the environments with unsafe water. It is highly prevalent among people with the chronic disorders and it is expressed in three forms. The dry form is provoked by near-starvation with calories and protein deficiency; the wet form is provoked by the fact that protein deficiency is greater than energy deficiency, and the combined form is a combination of both (Holtz, 2016). It can be treated with antibiotics, macro elements supply and electrolyte and fluid imbalance correction. Hence, all these deficiencies constitute the nutritional challenges that are experienced by the population around the globe.
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Obesity is one of the major nutrition challenges globally. Obesity is an internationally recognized problem that leads to such conditions as insulin resistance, triglycerides, high level of cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure. In turn, increased body weight provokes a high risk of breast cancer, colon, gall bladder, kidney failure, endometrial cancer, and prostate (Holtz, 2016). Obesity is provoked by the energy imbalance between the numbers of consumed and expended calories. Obesity is also caused by such factors as the increased consumption of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and reduced the physical activity due to the sedentary life style, along with the changing transportation modes and increasing urbanization. Changes in the physical activity and dietary patterns often result in the societal and environmental changes related to the lack of supportive policies in such areas as education, marketing, distribution, food processing, environment, urban planning, transport, agriculture, and health (Holtz, 2016). Hence, obesity remains a challenging problem of modern times.
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Moreover, many middle- and low-income states experience the double burden of obesity. They have to deal with the infectious diseases and undernutrition problems and they also experience the rapid rise of the risk factors of non-communicable diseases including overweight and obesity (Holtz, 2016). Children in such countries are more exposed to inadequate nutrition and consume greater amounts of the nutrient-poor, energy-dense, high-salt, high-sugar and high-fat foods that tend to be lower in cost, at the same time being lower in the nutrient quality (Holtz, 2016). Such diet in addition to a low level of physical activity provokes the significant rise of childhood obesity.
Nonetheless, interventions continue to be introduced in order to prevent and reduce obesity among children. One of the preventive measures can be the engagement in the regular physical activity, increased consumption of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts, grains, and legumes, and the limitation of energy intake from sugars and fats (Holtz, 2016). At the same time, the food industry has to provide relevant health food alternatives, practice responsible marketing, ensure that healthy alternatives are affordable and reduce the salt, sugar, and fat content of processed foods (Holtz, 2016). Hence, obesity is a global nutrition challenge, but it can still be addressed through correct diet and physical activity.
Food Safety and Food Security
Nowadays, a great role in addressing nutrition problems is played by such phenomena as the food security and food safety. Food security is the continued and free access to crucial and basic nutritious foods that are needed for maintaining an active and healthy life. At the same time, food insecurity can be explained as the limited availability and access to the critical nutritious and safe food. Long-term effects of food insecurity are disorder vulnerability, retarded development, cognitive and physical retardation and poor health. In case a person receives no treatment it may result in death (Holtz, 2016). Food insecurity in the US affected 11.7% of married people households in 2003 (Holtz, 2016). Food-insecure children and women are at greater risk of developing a chronic disorder, involving cardiovascular diseases and cancers. In the US, in 2008 more than forty-nine million people were found insecure. In response to this statistics, the government started developing new policies and food security acquired a new meaning (Holtz, 2016). It can be realized through the notion of food safety. It means the food has become the bioterrorism weapon because the most urgent and acute concerns of the global population are related to water quality and supply, and food safety that can lead to the global illness spread. Hence, food safety and food security are crucial for solving the problem of malnutrition.
Economics and Nutrition
Nutrition and economics have a strong relation to each other. Nowadays, nutrition economics play a great role because it characterizes both economic and health outcomes of nutrition in terms of the social benefits (Lenoir-Wijnkoop et al., 2011). The existing research is concentrated on the interdependence between public expenses, health, and nutritional habits. Moreover, it raises the awareness of the impact of nutrition on health outcomes and its relative or absolute monetary effect (Freijer, 2014). In particular, it is possible to see how nutrient interventions become a great example of how nutritional change can lead to positive economic and health outcomes with societal benefits. Therefore, appropriate nutrition assists in saving the costs.
A great role is played by proper diet because the increase of nutrient-dense food consumption or reduction of the unhealthy foods in one’s diet can lead to the health improvement. It is crucial from the economic perspective because it was found that the cost of unbalanced or poor diet is equal to more than seventy billion dollars annually in the US alone (Gyles at al., 2012). If the dietary improvements were ensured across all population segments, these costs would be saved. Also, it was found that a slight decrease in dietary saturated fat could lead to annual savings of almost thirteen billion dollars (Gyles at al., 2012). At the same time, the reduction of dietary salt by three grams per day can lead to scavenging from ten to twenty-four billion of dollars annually (Gyles at al., 2012). Hence, there is a significant connection between economics and nutrition.
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Examples mentioned above are not the only ones, which can be observed in regard to the obesity problem. In particular, the obesity costs the US around 99 billion dollars and the future cost of obesity in China is projected to rise by nine percent of the state’s gross national product by 2025 (Gyles at al., 2012). However, this spending can be prevented with the use of the right approach. The potential savings can be expected from the UN Nutrition Labeling and Education Act which is supposed to provide for the reduction of body weight in some population segments that can lead to the saving of 63 billion dollars to 166 billion dollars on an annual basis (Gyles at al., 2012). The cost-effectiveness of several nutrition interventions involving extensive educational efforts, a number of nutritional counseling strategies, reduced-fat diet, lifestyle change, and Mediterranean diet were measured and admitted to be efficient enough (Gyles at al., 2012). Therefore, it is possible to ensure cost saving with the use of the nutrition interventions.
Overall, nutrition is a highly crucial issue from the global perspective because it determines the lives and well-being of the global population. In modern conditions, the world experiences great challenges regarding malnutrition because many people around the world suffer from this phenomenon. The most vulnerable segments of population that are exposed to the nutrition problems are pregnant women, children, and older adults. In the past, the nutrition challenge was addressed as the human right to food, which means that each person has a right to a free and safe access to food. At the same time, the international society considers that the nutrition challenges are largely caused by the problem of obesity that has a significant prevalence. In order to change the situation, the definition of food security was developed. Moreover, nutrition field has a strong relationship with economic aspects because the burden of problems caused by an unbalanced diet is proportional to the amount of annual spending by the global states. Hence, the nutrition issue from the global perspective requires a serious and efficient approach in order to improve the situation around the world.
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