The Effects of Hunger

Everyone knows the feeling of an uncomfortable stomachache. If a person misses a single meal for one reason or another, he or she can feel the effect it has on mood, ability to concentrate and sometimes ability to even think straight. Thus, people try to avoid this feeling as much as possible, but what if one had no other choice but to be hungry?

Unfortunately, this is the reality that millions of people live with every day of their lives. According to the U.N., about 870 million people suffer from hunger, meaning one in eight people are hungry globally. Hunger has serious effects on the entire body, and extreme hunger only serves to continue the cycle of poverty.

Although hunger is normally a feeling associated with the stomach, hunger also directly affects the brain in several ways. Due to the lack of essential nutrients, vitamins, protein and minerals, severe and continuous hunger can inhibit the brain from developing cognitively, socially and emotionally, all of which affect an individual’s ability to read, concentrate, memorize and even speak.

Other key organs are also directly affected by hunger. Impaired vision and other eyesight issues result from a lack of Vitamin A, and the gums and teeth can become damaged due to calcium deficiency. Possibly even worse is the effect that extreme hunger has on the immune system. If the immune system lacks basic vitamins, nutrients and minerals, then it cannot properly defend the body against disease, which is why developing countries are constantly battling a variety of diseases.

As mentioned above, hunger can make it difficult to study and learn, which is why extreme poverty and hunger are often related to a lack of proper education. Especially in developing countries, children who experience hunger from a very young age tend to struggle academically and have a lower IQ when compared to the academic performance of well-nourished children.

Although all children should have access to nourishment, it is critical that newborns and infants receive the necessary nutrients. According to 30 Hour Famine, 70 percent of the brain develops during the first two years of life alone. If young children experience malnourishment, especially during that time frame, the brain could become damaged forever.

The effects of hunger and malnutrition are not only damaging, but can also be irreparable. Aside from a lack of comfort, hunger also causes serious health issues, which is why ensuring that everyone, especially those in developing countries, has access to the necessary nutrients they need to live a long and healthy life is such a critical issue.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: UN, 30 Hour Famine, The 40-Hour Famine
Photo: Poverty Around the World