Billions of people around the world suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ or micronutrient deficiencies.
They do not get enough micronutrients required to lead healthy productive lives from the foods that they eat. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron) and are absolutely essential to good health.
Micronutrient defeciencies can lower IQ, cause stunting and blindness in children, lower resistance to disease in both children and adults, and increase risks for both mothers and infants during childbirth.
It is estimated that about 1 million of the 3 million child deaths that occur each year as a result of undernutrition are due to hidden hunger.
Global Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiencies
This map details worldwide severity of the most common micronutrient deficiencies—vitamin A, anemia, and zinc—using World Health Organization (WHO) children under 5 prevalence data. Severity was coded using a 3-point weighting system based on levels of public health significance cut-offs (low, moderate, and high).
The diets of the poor in developing countries usually consist of very high amounts of staple foods (such as maize, wheat, and rice) but few micronutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and animal and fish products.
Biofortified crops, which have been bred to have higher amounts of micronutrients, can help provide these needed vitamins and minerals. They can be effective in reducing hidden hunger as part of a strategy that includes dietary diversification, supplementation, and commercial fortification, among others.