The Changing Face of Malnutrition

Almost every country in the world, low-, middle- or high-income, faces some form of malnutrition including undernutrition, overweight/obesity, or a combination of these conditions. This overlap of different types of malnutrition — undernutrition (e.g., stunting, vitamin and mineral deficiencies) co-existing with increasing rates of overweight and obesity — is known as the double burden of malnutrition.

About Stunting

Stunting (being too short for age) in young children is the result of undernutrition in the womb and early in life. In young children, stunting also is associated with poor brain development and educational performance, which leads to lower adult wages and lost productivity. When accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, stunting is associated with increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

Malnutrition affects school performance and studies have shown it often leads to lower earning potential as an adult.

About the Double Burden of Malnutrition

While stunting and vitamin and mineral deficiencies remain high in many low- and middle-income countries, rising income, urbanization, decreasing levels of communicable diseases, changes in diet and reductions in physical activity also are driving a transition to the co-existence of undernutrition and overweight/obesity. The double burden presents enormous health, social and economic challenges to countries and action is needed now to address this changing face of malnutrition.

When accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, stunting is associated with increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes