The Dangers of a Poor Diet
Mothers learn how to prepare nutritious dishes at a workshop in Uganda. Photo by Jake Lyell.
In the United States, obesity caused by unhealthy eating habits is a serious problem, but the risks associated with a poor diet aren't limited to weight gain, and they certainly aren't restricted to developed nations. In some of the world's poorest countries, food scarcity, malnutrition and other issues create their own problems, and millions of families around the world struggle to survive. Poor eating habits contribute to preventable illnesses, malnutrition, stunting, wasting and other serious factors that threaten the lives of children and families all over the world.
A Global Epidemic
According to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, dietary risks caused more than 11 million deaths worldwide in 2010. Researchers compiled information on 14 separate health risks associated with dietary habits, including a lack of essential nutrients resulting from an insufficient intake of fruits, nuts and vegetables, and concluded that dietary risks contributed significantly to overall mortality rates in virtually all parts of the world, with the exception of Oceania (including islands in the Pacific Ocean) and some areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Although the correlation between poor diet and life-threatening health conditions was lower in these regions, diet still played a role in premature death.
In terms of which risk factors were the most serious, a lack of fruit was the most prevalent. In many areas around the world, low fruit consumption was found to contribute to a range of potentially fatal health complications such as ischemic heart disease, stroke and several types of cancers. Low intake of vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains also ranked high in the report.
One of the biggest problems in developing nations is food scarcity. Millions of families are faced with the challenges of getting enough food to survive, and in many cases, a nutritionally balanced diet simply isn't possible. This places infants and young children at particular risk; without the essential nutrients they need during their crucial early years, children are much more prone to growth defects such as stunting and the additional complications associated with malnutrition, such as susceptibility to preventable disease.
The reasons behind food scarcity are complex. In some countries, such as Indonesia, overpopulation places great strain on available resources, while in the Philippines, natural disasters such as flooding threaten the nation's agricultural resources. Fluctuations in global climates are predicted to exacerbate this problem during the next several decades, and the International Food Policy Research Institute predicts that more than 25 million children will be malnourished by 2050 due to the effects of climate change.
ChildFund recognizes that the first five years of a child's life are the most important in terms of cognitive and physical development. That's why we work in some of the world's most deprived countries to provide children with the food and support they need to grow up healthy.
Our child sponsorship programs are the most effective way for you to invest in the future of a boy or girl living in poverty. For just $28 per month, or $35 per month to sponsor a child in the United States, you can help ChildFund provide nutritious food to children in need, as well as training to help parents and other caretakers make informed decisions about their children's nutritional needs, in addition to other vital resources. Alternatively, our ChildAlert emergency fund allows us to offer immediate assistance where it is most needed, including emergency relief efforts in countries hit by natural disasters.
However you choose to support ChildFund, you're making an invaluable difference in the lives of children all over the world. Without the support of our donors and sponsors, we couldn't reach as many children. Your generosity gives us the ability to save lives, empower communities and offer hope to families living in poverty.