It is now crucial to tackle undernutrition and overnutrition simultaneously - The Lancet

It is no longer realistic to see overnutrition and undernutrition as separate problems, they now have to be addressed simultaneously, The Lancet reports.

In 2020, undernutrition contributed to 45% of child deaths, according to a Lancet Global Health report. It says stunting affected approximately 149 million children under the age of five. It also says that wasting affected roughly 49 million children.

Stunting is a condition where children are shorter than their age suggests they should be, and wasting is a condition where children are underweight relative to their height, both conditions are linked to undernutrition.

However, a more recent study pointed out that low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) are now facing what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls the double burden of malnutrition (DBM).

The double burden of malnutrition refers to where the combination of undernutrition (stunting and wasting) and overnutrition (overweight and obesity) are present in a society at the same time.

It is so prevalent that one in three LMIC experience DBM country-wide. This is why it is not possible to approach undernutrition and overnutrition as problems to be addressed separately.

While undernutrition has long since been recognized as a general health issue, DBM is a challenge that is particular to LMIC. To address this, WHO has proposed that actions be taken to concurrently tackle overnutrition and undernutrition.

The intricacies of the implementation of these actions cannot be overemphasized however, as a bid to tackle undernutrition could lead to overnutrition. Research has shown that the implementation of these actions could pose threats to maternal overweight, while not having the desired effect on children affected by DBM.

The Lancet has encouraged more research on the various factors leading to malnutrition, especially as it affects LMIC.

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