Hidden hunger is a form of malnutrition that results from an inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, even though the overall calorie intake is adequate. It is an invisible form of malnutrition that is often overlooked and can have long-term health effects if not addressed. It can also lead to stunted physical and cognitive development in children and can significantly impact global health and development.

Hidden hunger is a global problem, with more than two billion people suffering from it today. It is particularly prevalent in developing countries, where poverty and lack of access to nutritious foods are significant factors. Poor diets, insufficient breastfeeding, and lack of access to health services are also contributing factors.

Although micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, iodine, folate, and zinc are needed by the body in minimal amounts, the deficiency of all such micronutrients can result in covert or hidden symptoms that are difficult to detect clinically, such as:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Inability to fight infections
  3. Impaired cognitive functions
  4. Impact on the long-term health of the person

The world can prevent hidden hunger by investing in nutrition-specific interventions, such as providing access to micronutrient-rich foods and nutrition education. Also, Governments should improve the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, and ensure the safety and quality of food supplies. Ensuring good agriculture and food production practices, including using high-yielding varieties and implementing sustainable agricultural practices, can also help reduce hidden hunger. Finally, improving access to health services and strengthening health systems can help to reduce hidden hunger.

The above includes providing access to health care, immunization, and health education, as well as improving the availability of micronutrient supplements, such as iron, iodine, and vitamin A.

The following steps can be taken to overcome hidden hunger:

1. Governments must prioritize nutrition in their development plans and create policies that ensure the availability and affordability of nutritious foods. The same would include investing in nutrition-specific interventions, i.e., providing access to micronutrient-rich foods and nutrition education.

2. Increasing food production and improving agricultural practices can help to reduce hidden hunger. The same includes the use of high-yielding varieties and the implementation of sustainable farming practices.

3. Access to health services should be improved, and health systems should be strengthened. The above includes providing access to health care, immunization, and health education and improving the availability of micronutrient supplements.

4. Governments should create policies and programs that reduce poverty and inequality since they significantly contribute to hidden hunger. It further includes providing access to social protection programs, like cash transfers and public works programs, that can help to reduce food insecurity.

5. Extensive research should be conducted to understand hidden hunger causes and develop effective interventions to address the problem. It means researching the impact of various interventions, like nutrition, agriculture, and health interventions.

After understanding the reasons and steps regarding hidden hunger, it is essential to find strategies to address micronutrient malnutrition and curb the “Hidden Hunger.” Such strategies are:

· Diversification of diets

· Fortifying Commercial foods

· Supplementation

· Biofortification

Diversification of Diets

An increase in Dietary Diversity is one of the most effective ways to prevent hidden hunger (Thompson and Amoroso 2010) sustainably. Dietary diversification is associated with child nutritional outcomes, even when controlling for socioeconomic factors (Arimond and Ruel 2004). It ensures a healthy diet that ­contains a balanced and adequate combination of macronutrients for the growth and development of a person. Various cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods provide sufficient nutrition for most people.

Some practical ways to promote dietary diversity involve food-based strategies, such as home gardening and educating people on better infant and young child feeding practices, food preparation, and storage/preservation methods to prevent nutrient loss.

Fortifying Commercial Foods

Food fortification is the addition of micronutrients to processed foods. Commercial food fortification adds micronutrients to staple foods or condiments during processing, thus, helping consumers consume appropriate levels of micronutrients. One of the scalable, sustainable, and cost-effective public health strategies, fortification is for iodized salt: 71% of the world’s population has access to iodized salt, and the number of iodine-deficient countries has decreased from 54 to 32 since 2003 (Andersson, Karumbunathan, and Zimmermann 2012).

There are several shortcomings while adopting “fortifying”. Some of these are:

· Resistance towards fortified foods

· The cooking properties or the flavours of fortified increase the levels of resistance among customers, thus, making it difficult to determine appropriate nutrient levels.

· The compounds used to fortify foods are unstable and might get lost during processing or storage

· Bioavailability: the degree to which a substance can be absorbed, which may be limited, thus, reducing the nutrient value


Supplementation is a technical approach to deliver nutrients directly to the desired population using syrup or pills.

The advantage of this technique is the capability of supplying an optimal amount of a specific nutrient in a highly absorbable form. Also, it is the fastest way to control deficiency in individuals or population groups that have been identified as deficient.

Supplementation programs are generally used as a short-term measure to replace long-term, sustainable food-based measures.

Between 1999 and 2005, the coverage of Vitamin A supplements increased more than fourfold; in 2012, estimated coverage rates were nearly 70% globally (UNICEF 2014b). According to UNICEF, at least 70% of young children ages 6 to 59 months need to receive vitamin A supplements every six months to achieve the desired reductions in child mortality.


Biofortification is a relatively new intervention involving breeding food crops using conventional or transgenic methods, thus, increasing their micronutrient content. Interestingly, only conventionally bred biofortified crops are released and delivered to farmers. While biofortified crops are unavailable in developing countries, the process will grow significantly in the next five years (Saltzman et al., 2013).

Biofortified foods provide a steady and safe source of micronutrients for people not reached by other interventions. Since biofortified staple foods cannot deliver as high a level or a wide range of minerals and vitamins, they are not the best response to clinical deficiencies. However, they help reduce the micronutrient intake gap and increase the daily intake of vitamins and minerals throughout a person’s life (Bouis et al. 2011).

Hidden hunger is a global problem that significantly impacts global health and development. To reduce its prevalence, governments should prioritize nutrition in their development plans and create policies ensuring nutritious foods’ availability and affordability. In addition, access to health services should be improved, poverty and inequality should be reduced, and more research should be conducted to understand the causes of hidden hunger and to develop effective interventions to address the problem.

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *