Introducing the new issue: “Do vitamin A deficiency and undernutrition still matter?”
Being undernourished for a long time can lead to stunting. In addition to its most obvious effects on stature (height), stunting has implications for the health and development of children, including their ability to learn. It can also lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, in adulthood.
Although stunting is declining, the rate of decline is too slow. There are now major global initiatives in place to improve the nutritional status of young children – the group most vulnerable to undernutrition and in whom the effects of undernutrition are greatest.
Most children who suffer from malnutrition and stunting are deficient in many micronutrients, such as the B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, iodine and zinc. Stunted children are also usually deficient in vitamin A, which places them at increased risk of blindness and death.
Although great strides have been made to address vitamin A deficiency in children, there are still many countries where vitamin A deficiency remains a problem. Worldwide, in populations at risk of vitamin A deficiency, one in three preschool-aged children is thought to be deficient in vitamin A with the greatest burden in Africa and Southeast Asia (Figure 1).