dietary supplements
It is no surprise that a world of nearly seven billion people produces imbalances. One of the planet’s many documented inequalities concerns the fight against malnutrition.

Globally, malnutrition affects nearly two billion people. Malnutrition is sometimes referred to as “hidden hunger.” While those suffering from malnutrition may receive enough food, they do not obtain enough micronutrients and minerals.

The German NGO Welthungerhilfe and child aid network Terre des Hommes published a report in July 2014 addressing the potential for fortified food to combat this problem. The report highlights the ongoing debate among the private sector, the government and the food industry as to whether food fortification is a mere “techno-fix” or a potential solution in the fight against hidden hunger.

According to the report, it is possible, albeit challenging, to provide populations with enhanced or fortified foods.

“Mass fortification is the preferred approach when a majority of the population is at risk of a particular nutrient deficiency, whereas targeted fortification is designed for defined population subgroups,” states the report.

Yet a sustained reliance upon enhanced foodstuffs could result in natural nutritional practices becoming obsolete. For example, breastfeeding allows infants to receive a host of nutrients via a mother’s breast milk. Health experts have warned that forgoing such practices for nonstandard approaches could prove costly.

Welthungerhilfe secretary general Wolfgang Jamann noted that parts of Africa place a rather significant reliance upon corn porridge. While those who consume the product may not necessarily be starving, such a diet restricts them from the necessary vitamins and minerals to sustain a healthy life. In Asian countries, where rice is a popular food, a lack of Vitamin A can lead to numerous health issues.

Though such dietary supplements may provide a possible antidote to the nutritional issue affecting impoverished people worldwide, it is likely not a long term solution. Health experts continue to believe a balanced diet holds the key to remedying the issue of hidden hunger.

The authors of the report noted that fortification programs should “be implemented together with poverty reduction initiatives and other agricultural, health, education and social intervention strategies that promote the consumption and utilization of adequate quantities of nutritious foods. Otherwise, they risk ending up as a short-term technical fix to the multi-faceted problem of hidden hunger.”

Though obtaining such a diet may prove difficult for many, it is most likely a more sustainable, safer and healthier option.

Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, Micronutrient Initiative, Welthungerhilfe
Photo: JHSPH Open

The Codex Alimentarius Commission announced last week that tighter restrictions should be placed on the amount of lead in baby formula, as well as the amount of arsenic in rice.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an organization managed by both the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the Commission, baby formula should contain no more than 0.01 mg/kg of lead and rice no more than 0.2 mg/kg of arsenic.

Codex helps to set safety standards and nutritional guidelines for food consumers and suppliers throughout the world. The Commission’s annual meeting featured representatives from 170 countries, the European Union and 30 international governmental and non-governmental bodies.

According to a 2010 WHO report, childhood lead poisoning is a common and well-understood childhood disease. With an environmental origin, a child’s exposure to lead can originate from petrol, the mining industry, lead-based paints, soil, drinking water and different forms of waste.

The report states that extensive lead exposure can result in nervous system and brain damage and even death. Acute symptomatic lead poisoning is common today in developing countries where children inhabit areas prone to lead poisoning.

While lead is a naturally-occurring chemical, it often ends up in baby formula due to the nature of the formula’s production.

Additionally, high levels of prolonged exposure to arsenic can result in cancer, skin lesions, developmental problems, heart disease and diabetes. Arsenic that is ingested can cause nervous system and brain problems.

Like lead, arsenic is a naturally-occurring chemical found in groundwater and soil. It is arguably most dangerous in parts of Asia where rice paddy fields often utilize arsenic-rich groundwater. Crop farming in raised beds rather than arsenic-tainted fields diminishes the danger of the chemical affecting agriculture.

In addition, Codex suggested that some veterinary drugs be outlawed in farm animals as a means to prevent the drugs from affecting consumable foods, including meat, milk, eggs or honey. The participating countries called for new limits on pesticide residues and additives in foods, limits on toxins and other contaminants and new safety and quality measures for certain foods.

As the Commission and the developed world seek to create a safer and more inhabitable society, tighter restrictions on consumable products may continue to play an important role in shaping the need for more reliable food standards.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, Nutrition Insight, World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Photo: Wikipedia

fish drying
A new fish drying method pioneered by a tiny U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization project in Burundi has had tremendous results. Instead of laying the sardine-like ngagala in the hot sand, raised racks were implemented to dry the fish. This simple strategy has cut fish waste by half, created employment for hundreds of Burundians and caused a boost in the economic prospects of fishing.

Ndagala have been a staple of the Burundian diet for centuries. With some 60 percent of Burundians currently lacking the essential amount of protein in their diets, the nutrients from ndagala are a precious commodity.

However, before the FAO project, the ndagala drying process was wasteful, inefficient and extremely physically taxing.

The old method of drying the fish took place on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Burundi. Women laborers would lay the ndagala on the sand to dry in the sun, where they were easy targets for animals and ran the risk of being trampled and contaminated.

According to the FAO, around 15 percent of the fish catch was lost or spoiled during the drying process.

But 10 years ago, with the help of Burundi’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, FAO launched a project in a village called Mvugo. This project installed 48 cheap wire-mesh racks suspended a meter above the ground, offered training and distributed leaflets on how to build the racks.

The benefits of this tiny project were almost immediately apparent.

This new method reduced drying time from three days, to only eight hours. The racks protect the fish from animals, and can be covered from the rain to prevent spoilage. Workers need not bend over to spread and turn the fish, reducing the physical toll of the labor.

The overall quality of the fish improved. According to rack owner Domitien Ndabaneze, “Our fishes are of a good quality without small gravel or stones and they are dried in hygienic conditions. With our products, customers are no longer concerned with eating sandy fish.”

The price of fish has more than doubled, from 4,000 Burundian francs in 2004 ($2.5/kg), to 9000 ($6/kg) in 2013. The increasingly lucrative trade has attracted more men workers, and the total acreage dedicated to fishing on the shores of Lake Tanganyika has expanded dramatically.

Manufacturers of the racks have sprung up on the coastline, and thanks to the increased shelf life of the fish they can be transported inland to feed other Burundi villages.

This impactful project is an example of how small-scale solutions can have large-scale benefits. The FAO plans to continually promote and strengthen the use of drying racks in countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, in hopes that more villagers will experience the life-improving benefits of this simple invention.

–Grace Flaherty

Sources: FAO, UN
Photo: UN

uc global food initiative
University of California is determined to downsize hunger and make the world a healthier place. UC will research what is causing world hunger, how it could be solved, and then it will put its findings to work.

It is estimated that by the year 2025, the world’s population will reach eight billion, and UC wants to nutritiously feed all of the eight billion people.

President Janet Napolitano announced the launch of the UC Global Food Initiative at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA on July 1, 2014. This program will be directed by Napolitano and the 10 UC chancellors.

“Our goal is audacious, and it is far-reaching. It is our intent to do everything in our power to put the world on a pathway to feed itself in ways that are nutritious and sustainable,” said Napolitano during a press conference on July 1. Napolitano went on to explain that the issue of “food” does not just consist of what people eat, but it also has to deal with delivery systems, population growth, climate issues and policy. She went on to say that, every night, one billion people go to bed hungry, while half a billion people are suffering from obesity.

There is already so much research going on at the different UC labs. For example, at the Berkeley lab, researchers have developed a smart cookstove called the Darfur stove. This stove is able to address food security issues caused by misplaced people in Darfur. At the same time, the Darfur stove is able to decrease women’s exposure to violence while collecting firewood.

Napolitano went on to explain that the idea of this organization is not to come up with a solution to problems that have to deal with food but to provide information and examples for communities in California and around the world on how to provide food security and sustainable food.

Some of the smaller ways the initiative will address food issues is by incorporating these issues in undergraduate and graduate classes.

In addition to traditional research topics such as agriculture, health and the environment, the program will also research topics such as law, humanities, education and social science to help develop discussion about food issues.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: Contra Costa Times, University of California Office of the President, University of California Office of the President, Cookstove Projects, University of California
Photo: UCR Today

Nutrients for All
The world is presently facing a nutritional crisis. Over 2 billion people across the globe are malnourished. Both poor and rich countries alike are suffering from a nutrient crisis. Over a third of the United States population is suffering from obesity. Nutrients for All is an initiative to help repair this nutritional problem by carrying out a design called the nutrient value chain, which is the link between soil, farm, food and people.

Obesity is linked to diabetes and heart disease, which are growing problems. Recent studies show that there is a link between pregnant women suffering from malnourishment, which may cause obesity later in life. Access to the foods needed for proper nourishment has become a global problem. Many developing countries are living on nutrient-less subsidized diets.

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, is working with Nutrients for All to help fight major social, environmental and economic concerns. Ashoka is a global network that whose goal is to bring these innovative ideas around the world.

Ashoka and other organization leaders from around the world are putting unconventional agricultural and management techniques to the test to help fight the global need for proper nutrients. These organizations implement plans that enrich soils in ways that nourish both crops and local ecological systems. This helps nourish communities and produce the right foods to farm. There are many factors that Ashoka and Nutrients for All entails for success.

The Nutrients for All soil plan includes reducing topsoil erosion, providing nutrient-rich food for local, regional and global supply chains, stabilizing and increasing recharge of groundwater and watersheds and reducing pollution and sanitation problems from industrial and residential sources.

These factors create a better understanding of soil management, and are used to help strengthen developing countries‘ economies and the well-being of those people.

The transformations of the economy provides proof that the Nutrients for All is a successful and innovative plan. Communities are more prepared for weather and natural disasters. Human vitality increases and communities share a lack of diseases across the board. More economic and food choices are brought to each community where Nutrients for All has been placed.

Nutrients for All wants to engage women farmers to produce not only for their household, but as a means to increases household income. A study performed by Ashoka staff shows that for a household with female farmers, the income and well-being increases 11 times.

One way we can take action to help get Nutrients for All’s message out is to empower others with new information. Either by being a consumer or practitioner, providing this information about nutrient conscious decisions for not only yourself, but for those around you, benefits everyone.

Help from sources like Nutrients for All can help change not only the way we eat, but the way we live. The evidence of the link between health and food is shown in the rising rates of cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Nutrients for All, Nutrients for Life

In 1973, the sci-fi film “Soylent Green” portrayed a dystopian future society characterized by overpopulation and the effects of global warming in which the people ate wafers to survive. At the film’s conclusion, everyone becomes privy to the fact that the wafers are actually made of people. Four decades later, a group of three men in their twenties have taken the idea of everyone eating one easy food to survive and produced their own product called Soylent, thankfully people free.

When Rob Rhinehart and his team sat down to create this meal replacement, they decided that they needed to pull out all of the essential nutrients needed for health and functioning and combine them to make one super drink. With that goal in mind, they developed a powdered drink with what has been described as a “doughy” nature. You add water, drink a meal’s worth and you can power through the rest of your day.

Soylent consists of sodium, fatty acids, zinc, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, fiber, protein, iron, magnesium and a slew of vitamins. Despite its name, there are only trace amounts of soy, and Rhinehart’s team is currently in the process of getting a gluten-free version out on the market. Rhinehart claims that you can live on Soylent, and Soylent has made up 90 percent of his diet for the past year and a half.

There is speculation, however, about how much necessary nutrition one actually gets from living off of Soylent. Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica, who has purchased large boxes of Soylent to supplement the occasional meal, has written numerous articles about living on Soylent and what Soylent could mean for busy, anti-cooking people. She explains that, while the types and amounts of nutrients in Soylent are based on U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances, “It’s still not wholly certain that simply hitting roughly 100 percent of the RDA standards is enough.”

Likely in anticipation of this criticism, Rhinehart stated that the ingredient list would change and evolve as their product made progress on the market.

So far, Soylent is being marketed toward the busy workaholics who simply can’t fit in the time for meal preparation and would rather mix up a powdered drink to get them through the day. As an added plus, Soylent is markedly cheaper than weekly groceries, with a month’s supply costing only $70.

Little is being said, though, about how Soylent could prove to be an important product in feeding the world’s hungry. The past and current packaged food products that are being sent to impoverished areas like sub-Saharan Africa have had mixed success. MANA nutrition, which produces packets of peanut paste that require little preparation, are cheap and instrumental in helping bring people back from the brink of starving to death. What it lacks is the minimal nutrition Soylent provides people — something that is important in improving quality of life.

Another widely used food supplement was produced as a powdered milk substance, similar to Soylent in that you simply add water. Again, there is a lack of essential nutrients in milk, but it was easy for many families and efficient to produce and distribute.

One issue that Soylent would face, were it implemented as a source of food aid, is the water mixing aspect. In some poverty-stricken areas, plentiful, not to mention clean, water is often a precious resource rather than an abundant luxury. This is an issue that the powdered milk supplement faced, as the lowest possible maintenance necessary will often see the best results.

There are other potential problems with providing people with Soylent to survive on. Innovative Development brings up the fact that chewing is an essential action to establish proper functioning of the digestive system. They also explore the option that people who have been exposed to war and famine may have different dietary needs. The introduction of Soylent to a fragile body system may have unforeseen negative effects, particularly on children whose bodies are just developing.

At this point, Soylent isn’t necessarily ready to be shipped out en masse to Africa, but it does have its perks for addressing world hunger. Often, approaches to feeding the poor focus on survival, which is of course an important aspect. But beyond that, nutrition is incredibly important for establishing a healthy, stable society where people can be productive and live in a happy environment.

– Magdalen Wagner

Sources: The New Yorker, Ars Technica, Soylent, Innovate Development, Seattle Gluten Free

Life expectancy has risen in the past two decades by over nine years. Both wealthy and impoverished nations have managed to raise their citizens’ lifespans. In the wealthier countries, less people are dying from heart diseases by the age of 60. According to the U.N.’s World Health Organization annual statistics, six countries’ babies are healthier, with less dying before the age of 5, explained Margaret Chan, World Health Organization chief, in a statement.

The six poorest countries managed to raise life expectancy by over 10 years between 1990 and 2012. Liberia’s lifespans increased the most by 20 years (42 to 62).

The next few countries that were able to significantly raise their lifespans are Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77), Cambodia (54 to 72), East Timor (50 to 66) and Rwanda (48 to 65).

According to the WHO, a girl who was born in 2012 will most likely live to be approximately 73-years old and a boy up to 68-years old.

More people are starting to live longer because of an increase in food supplies, better nutrition, improvements in medical supplies and technology (immunizations and antibiotics), improved sanitation and hygiene and safer water supplies.

Although the life spans in Africa are the lowest, they have still made a significant increase by about 10 percent . Malaria deaths have decreased by 30 percent and HIV infections have also decreased by 74 percent.

A great contribution to the increasing lifespans is the larger income Africans are making, which has increased by 30 percent.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique, has made huge improvement due to the discoveries of coal and gas.

Today, this is proof that people are able to make a change in others’ lives — the ones who need it the most. Although the poorest countries still have the shortest lifespans, they have definitely increased. Over the next few decades, one could expect even more growth.

 —  Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: ENCA, SF Gate, Geography, The Independent

Since conflict started in the Democratic Republic of Congo, children have been fleeing the violence to Rwanda and into the hands of another challenge: malnutrition. The state of food security and proper nourishment in Rwandan refugee camps is becoming dire as nearly 44 percent of children under 5 face serious chronic malnutrition.

However, the Rwandan government is making strides to welcome its new residents with open arms and humanitarian aid. Under the command of Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, the Rwandan government launched the “1,000 Days in the Thousand Hills” campaign back in September of 2013 to combat malnutrition in both its refugee camps and its local population. With the help of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), the 1,000 days campaign was implemented first in the Kiziba camp in Western Rwanda, then in all five refugee camps in the country.

The mission of the campaign: combat malnutrition using programs that make populations more self-reliant and educated on proper health. The approach: provide children with the proper nutrients for the first 1,000 days from birth until the child’s second birthday and establish local community efforts to produce more nutritious food.

The 1,000 Days campaign in Rwanda is not unique. In fact, similar programs have been implemented in a variety of other locations including Ethiopia, Indonesia and Guatemala. But what makes Rwanda’s campaign special is its focus on integration. Like all of MIDIMAR’s programs, the 1,000 Days in the Thousand Hills campaign aims to connect the refugee and local populations by using their combined forces to solve mutual problems. All practices used in the local population are being used in refugee camps and vice versa.

What are these practices? As established, the campaign seeks to make populations at risk more self-sufficient while still receiving help to reduce malnutrition. Programs include setting up kitchen gardens and animal breeding programs. At the start of the campaign, 315 kitchen gardens were set up and 151 families received rabbits to breed, eat and sell. The hope is to make refugees and local populations independent with livestock and farming techniques that provide them with greater nutrients.

On top of this, the 1,000 days campaign aims to provide children with the necessary sustenance for healthy development and nutrition from day one until age 2. This allows children to escape malnutrition and stunting of growth and to have better immune systems and brighter futures. The program achieves this goal both by putting more food into the community and educating parents on what counts as fortified and healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits and milk. In addition, the campaign seeks to spread awareness on the warning signs of malnutrition and the diseases associated with the condition.

All of this culminates in two results: first, it brings children out of risk of malnutrition by providing them with necessary protein from the start. Second, it pulls populations into a state of food security by providing sustainable ways of harvesting good food.

The program is set to end in October of 2016, but many strides towards success can be taken by then. With any luck and lots of hard work, malnutrition will cease to be an insurmountable problem facing refugees in Rwanda.

– Caitlin Thompson

Sources: All Africa, Doctors Without Borders, Ministry of Disaster Management, Relief Web, Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Health, World Vision International, 1000 Days
Photo: Republic of Rwanda Ministry of Health


In the 1950s, there were approximately 700 million people living in hunger, while the number of obese people was around 100 million, and a majority of the cases were found in countries with strong economies. Today, however, that is no longer the case.

In 2010, the number of hungry people in the world had slowly risen to 800 million while the number of obese citizens in the world sharply rose to 1.4 billion.

According to a documentary, “Globeisty: Fat’s New Frontier,” there has been not one country with a low or moderate income that has managed to reduce its number of hungry citizens without rapidly jumping to obesity.

However, obesity is not just limited to developed nations. Currently, there are more obese people in developing countries than there are people suffering from hunger in the same countries.

It is predicted that in India, around 100 million people will have diabetes some time in the foreseeable future. Currently, in the U.S. alone, eight obesity-related diseases are the cause for over 75% of healthcare costs. The diseases include, but are not limited to: Type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (or NAFLD), Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

One of the leading causes of this rise in obesity is linked to the increase in the consumption of soft drinks. There has been a direct correlation between the rise in obesity rates in developing countries and the sales of soft drinks. In Mexico, the largest consumer of carbonated soft drinks in the world, 71% of women and 65% of men are overweight.

In 1989, Mexico had a miniscule portion of its adult population overweight and had no overweight children. Over the span of 15 to 16 years, the citizens of Mexico have reached a level of diabetes equal to the level the U.S. had 10 to 20 years ago.

However, another leading cause of obesity is consumption of foods filled with carbohydrates. In the 1950s, most of the food globally consumed was locally grown and fresh. Now, the majority of food consumed in developed and developing nations is highly processed and filled with carbohydrates. When a person eats a carbohydrate-heavy meal and fails to move a sufficient enough amount to turn the carbohydrates into energy, they are turned into sugar and fat.

In “The World is Fat,” an article written in 2007, Barry Popkin stated that the “exponential change in a vast array of courses” have led to people moving less and eating more, resulting in an “unprecedented” rise in obesity.

One final cause of obesity can be linked to accessibility of certain types of food, drink and cooking material.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the citizens of China were readily able to access hydrogenated solid oils like Crisco and liquid oils. Now, a Chinese citizen consumes around 300 to 400 of their daily calories from vegetable oil. There has also been an increase in the consumption of dairy products, fish, poultry, beef and pork. In 1974, the price of 100 kilograms of beef was somewhere around $500 in developing nations. Today, the price has dropped to around one-fifth of that number.

There is a movement, though, to try to halt the rise of obesity. In Mexico, special fitness programs are available to try to encourage people to move more. These programs are offered for free to allow anyone who needs it the chance to prevent obesity. The Mexican Minister of Health also has proposed taxing items and taking more aggressive stands toward working to combat obesity.

– Monica Newell

Sources: Scientific American, Epoch Times, The Independent
Photo: SF Gate