Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Malnutrition among women and adolescent girls

Adequate nutrition, a fundamental cornerstone of any individual's health, is especially critical for women because inadequate nutrition wreaks havoc not only on their health but also on the health of their children. Children of malnourished women are more likely to face cognitive impairments, short stature, lower resistance to infections, and a higher risk of disease and death throughout their lives.

Although malnutrition's effects have been recognized for decades, there has been little measurable progress in addressing the specific nutritional problems of women and adolescent girls. Ignorance about the symptoms of malnutrition, such as the lethargy and depression caused by iron deficiency, may be dismissed as "normal" or unimportant, further exacerbating the problem.

Malnutrition poses a variety of threats to women. It weakens their ability to survive childbirth, makes them more susceptible to infections, and leaves them with fewer reserves to recover from illness. HIV-infected mothers who are malnourished may be more likely to transmit the virus to their infants and to experience a more rapid transition from HIV to full-blown AIDS. Malnutrition undermines women's productivity, capacity to generate income, and ability to care for their families.

Certain conditions and phases of a woman’s life need special attention in terms of nutritional value. The onset of menstruation in which lot of iron is lost each month during menstruation making teenage girls and women very prone to iron deficiency anaemia. One should ensure that they are getting adequate amounts of iron and vitamin C (which aids iron absorption) during this period, Pregnancy in which a well balanced diet will help a mother-to-be to stay healthy and supply sufficient nutrition to growing foetus. A good intake of all vitamins and minerals is essential during pregnancy. Calcium helps baby’s teeth and bone formation. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and folic acid reduces the risk of congenital neural tube defect in baby. Iron is required for making baby’s blood as well as for maintaining mothers own iron levels, Menopause in which women tend to lose more calcium and bone density making them prone to osteoporosis. At this age, one should eat plenty of dairy products, green leafy vegetables and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol.

Addressing women's malnutrition has a range of positive effects because healthy women can fulfill their multiple roles like generating income, ensuring their families' nutrition, and having healthy children more effectively and thereby help advance countries' socioeconomic development. Women are often responsible for producing and preparing food for the household, so their knowledge or lack thereof about nutrition can affect the health and nutritional status of the entire family. Improving women's nutrition can also help nations achieve three of the Millennium Development Goals, which are commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress.

By Aakshi Kalra

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