Human Health and Nutrition: Health and Quality of Life

29 September 2009
&copy; C. Carnemark / Worldbank<p>Hunger and malnutrition are among the most devastating problems facing the world’s poor and needy.</p>&copy; C. Fjeld / IAEA<p>The economic and social costs of malnutrition are enormous and major international efforts are underway to address the underlying problems.</p> &copy; C. Carnemark / Worldbank<p>"Many things we need can wait, the child cannot. Now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, his mind is being developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow. His name is today." — Gabriela Mistral, Nobel Laureate.</p>&copy; P. Pavlicek / IAEA<p>One out of ten children born in developing countries will die before his or her fifth birthday.</p><p>This extremely high death toll — in total more than 10 million young children die in developing countries each year — demonstrates the vulnerability of infants and young children to poor nutrition and poor health.</p>&copy; IAEA Project: RLA/7/008<br />Child in Brazil<p>Micronutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron play an essential role in the metabolic processes of the human body, but are only required in small quantities.</p><p>During the accelerated growth phases from infancy through adolescence, micronutrient deficiencies can leave children ill, stunted, or even blind, and diminish their prospects for a healthy and productive adulthood.</p>&copy; L. Davidsson / IAEA<p>Around the world, approaches to improve the intake of micronutrients include nutritional supplementation programmes, fortification of staple foods, modification of traditional diets, and control of  parasites and infections.</p><p>In supplementation programmes, those at risk of deficiency are given the nutrients in capsule or syrup forms. Fortification programmes add micronutrients to staple foods, such as flour or oil, as a means of providing them to people on a large scale. Promoting the diversification of foods in the diet may also improve the absorption of essential micronutrients. Controlling parasites, particularly worms, can also help prevent deficiencies.</p>&copy; L. Davidsson / IAEA<p>Over the last 20 years, developments in nuclear science have provided new techniques and methods that are today being used to gather information about the nutritional status of individuals and populations.</p><p>This information comes from evaluating measurements of nutrient requirements and studies of the uptake and bioavailability of vitamins and minerals.</p>&copy; Source: WHO<p>There are two forms of isotopic tracers: stable and radioactive. </p><p>Radioactive isotopic tracers can be measured by the radiation they emit. While these types of tracers are often used in environmental studies or medical diagnosis, stable isotopes are usually used in nutritional studies, especially those involving infants and young children.</p>&copy; PhotoDisk;<br />A. Diesner-Kuepfer / IAEA<p>These stable isotopes will be absorbed into the body’s water, urea or carbon dioxide.</p><p>Measuring these metabolic products in saliva and breast milk for example, the ratio of minor to major isotopes can be determined.</p>&copy; IAEA Project: Senegal/7/003 — Saliva samples in Senegal are used to study how much breast milk a nursing baby receives.<p>THE AGENCY’S INITIATIVE — The IAEA is funding projects worldwide aimed at developing effective strategies to combat micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries using isotopic and nuclear techniques.</p><p>These techniques are effective in both evaluating the source of deficiency and how effective the intervention is.</p>&copy; IAEA<p>IRON AND ZINC FORTIFICATION OF FOODS — An estimated 50 per cent of preschool children in Indonesia are deficient in iron and zinc. In response, the government has decided to fortify wheat flour with iron and zinc.</p><p>Anaemia is prevalent among women and children in China. The iron status of school children consuming iron-fortified sauce was evaluated over a three-month period. Fortification was successful in restoring the iron level of the anaemic children to normal levels.</p>&copy; IAEA<p>VITAMIN A ASSESSMENT — To address the problem of adequate vitamin A in children and pregnant or nursing women, the IAEA has provided support to use isotopic techniques to measure the Vitamin A absorption of those participating in: supplementation programmes in Ghana and Peru; diet improvement programmes in China, India, the Philippines, and Thailand; and food fortification programmes in Israel and the Philippines.</p>&copy; R. Quevenco / IAEA<br />Selling fruit in the Philippines.<p>The IAEA project is providing careful measurements of the body’s intake and use of vitamins and minerals in Brazil, Chile, Cuba, and Mexico using stable isotopes.</p><p>The data being acquired through the use of these techniques are being used to set nutrition guidelines tailored to local conditions and needs.</p>&copy; IAEA Project: RLA/7/008<br />Saliva sampling in Chile. <p>MAINTAINING THE NUTRITIONAL BALANCE — Nuclear and isotopic techniques can be used to study important parameters of human nutritional status, such as total energy expenditure, lean body mass, and breast milk intake. </p><p>Lean Body Mass:  Determining lean body mass and fat mass can help identify risks for over-nutrition. </p><p>While it is a well recognized problem in developed countries, obesity is an increasing problem in countries considered to be in "nutrition transition".</p>&copy; IAEA Project: RLA/7/008<br />Childhood obesity assessment in Chile. <p>Breast Milk Intake:  Breastfeeding is the simplest, healthiest, and least expensive way to feed infants.</p><p>But a nursing infant’s nutrition depends both on the quantity and quality of the mother’s milk.</p><p>The results from these studies can help guide nutritionists in customizing nutrition programmes to provide calories and nutrients in a healthy balance to meet specific needs.</p>&copy; S. Daneel / Z&uuml;rich;<br />L. Davidsson / IAEA<p>OSTEOPOROSIS: A CHALLENGE TO HEALTHY AGEING — Osteoporosis increases the fragility of bone and the likelihood of fractures.</p><p>While bone mineral mass is dependent of several factors, inadequate nutrition plays a key role in the development of osteoporosis.</p><p>Although a number of non-invasive techniques are capable of determining bone mass, harmonization of these measurements remains difficult because of the diversity of the techniques used. The IAEA has initiated studies to improve the comparability of data derived from different countries and allow researchers to draw multi-country conclusions from these data sets.</p>&copy; PhotoDisk<p>ASSESSING INTERACTIONS: POLLUTION AND INFECTION — Pollutants in the environment may deteriorate the nutritional status of populations and poor nutritional status may increase the health risks posed by pollutants. Nutrient deficiencies impair the functioning of the immune system, which can lead to dramatically higher risk of infection.</p><p>Among the Agency’s priority activities are projects on the prevalence of infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (Hp) — linked to chronic malnutrition and diarrhoea in infants or children — and the impact of nutrition on infection by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).</p>&copy; PhotoDisk&copy; L. Davidsson / IAEA
Last update: 17 October 2014