"...all doctors should be able to diagnose and treat nutritional deficiencies."

Royal College of Physicians. Nutrition and Patients: A Doctor's Responsibility. London 2002

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The Prevalence of Nutritional Deficiencies - Worldwide

As well as assessing individuals there is the bigger picture of global nutritional deficiencies, which are monitored and managed by many organisations most notably the World Health Organisation.  The WHO is particularly concerned about child growth and malnutrition, nutrition policies and programmes, body mass index and vitamins and minerals.  It provides information and maintains detailed databases on each of these topics.  www.who.int/nutrition/databases/en/

It is estimated that vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect at least one third of the world’s population.  They are much more prevalent in developing countries but are not unknown in developed countries and knowledge of them is of importance to those in developed countries for the following reasons:

  • Many of the first descriptions of severe nutrient deficiency were first seen in those living in undeveloped countries and this lead to their recognition in those living in developed countries
  • Less than a century ago many deficiencies that are prevalent in undeveloped regions were also commonplace in the UK population and could return if economic, agricultural or environmental circumstances were to change adversely
  • The worst-fed 10% of UK population have intakes of many nutrients that are similar to those in undeveloped countries where deficiencies in such nutrients are commonplace
  • Lessons learnt about the impact, detection, treatment and prevention of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in undeveloped countries have importance for us in developed countries both at the level of treating individuals as well as at-risk populations

“It is no longer a question of treating severe deficiency in individuals. It is a question of reaching out to whole populations to protect them against the devastating consequence of even moderate forms of vitamin and mineral deficiency.”

  Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, UNICEF



Copyright Dr. Alan Stewart M.B.B.S.M.R.C.P. (UK)M.F. Hom.
47 Priory Street, Lewes, East Sussex. BN7 1HJ
Tel 01273 487003 Fax: 01273 487576