Nutrition Is A Central Issue For The Animal

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Nutrition is a Central Issue for the Animal and Equine Scientist

Nutrition is a Central Issue for the Animal and Equine Scientist


The biomedical literature clearly establishes a strong link among malnutrition, ill health, and premature death. Malnutrition is a major world problem, affecting 40 to 50 percent of the world's population. Malnutrition takes two broad forms: protein deficiency and micronutrient deficiency. Protein-deficient diets are a leading cause of underweight babies and children. The arrested development in children is associated with major physical impairments in adulthood. Moreover once severe protein deficiency develops (Basch, 1999), the likelihood of death is approximately 25 percent. Estimates indicate that protein deficiency affects more than one-third of the world's children.


Micronutrient malnutrition is largely related to dietary deficiencies of three key elements: iodine, iron, and vitamin A. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in the world. This deficiency causes a variety of physical and mental disabilities, including enlargement of the thyroid, dwarfism, and various degrees of mental retardation. The most common nutritional deficiency, affecting more than one billion people worldwide, is iron deficiency. Low levels of iron give rise to impaired learning (Basch, 1999), low work capacity, low birth weight, and increased maternal mortality. In developing economies more than 40 percent of women are anemic.

By some estimates, 20 percent of maternal deaths are caused by severe iron deficiency. Finally vitamin A deficiency inflicts eye damage and increased severity of infections on more than 200 million people worldwide, with some 13 million people suffering night blindness or total blindness. It is estimated that yearly, between 250,000 and 500,000 preschool children go blind from vitamin A deficiency and some two-thirds of these die shortly after becoming blind (Strauss and Thomas, 1998).

Economists have long established that income has a strong effect on nutrition and health. The adverse health consequences of declines in living standards in poor countries can be catastrophic. Even for countries at a middle level of development, a deteriorating economy can have serious health effects on the population. For example, in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, malnutrition was not a general problem from the early 1960s until the mid-1980s. Indeed in these countries the per capita availability of calories, proteins, and fats rose significantly (Strauss and Thomas, 1998).

However, there were serious imbalances in people's diets, especially among urban dwellers and low-income groups. In brief, diets tended to have too high a proportion of cholesterol-rich products (such as eggs and animal fats), sugar, bread, and alcohol, and too small a share of fruits, vegetables, and good-quality meat. Such dietary imbalances led to anemia and micronutrient deficiencies and their related health problems as well as a high prevalence of overweight people and cardiovascular diseases.

Such health problems have been greatly exacerbated by the economic problems associated with the transition to a market economy in eastern Europe since the late 1980s. For example, in the period 1989-92, living standards in eastern Europe declined between 18 and 39 ...
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