The burden of malnutrition is unacceptably high, with women, infants, children and adolescents particularly being at risk.
Every country in the world experiences the burden of malnutrition and many now see a compounding of different forms including stunting, wasting, anaemia and obesity, according to the 2018 Global Nutrition Report.
Further, eight key nutrition indicators are off track to meet targets: adult high blood pressure, adult obesity, adult overweight, anaemia, childhood stunting, childhood wasting, childhood overweight, and salt intake.
The comprehensive report on nutrition released on Thursday highlights a worrying prevalence and universality of malnutrition in all its forms.
In addition, the numbers show that without significant reversal of current trends, the world cannot meet Sustainable Development Goal 2 of ending hunger by 2030, nor the World Health Organisation global nutrition targets by 2025.
“The global burden is unacceptably high. This is not new information in the sense that we have said every year since 2014,” said Corinna Hawkes, co-author of the report.
Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
Malnutrition addresses three broad groups of conditions: undernutrition (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age); micronutrient-related malnutrition, or micronutrient excess; and overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers).
It is estimated that 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight. 52 million children under five years of age are wasted, 17 million are severely wasted and 155 million are stunted, while 41 million are overweight or obese.
Around 45 per cent of deaths among children under five years of age are linked to undernutrition.
“It’s not just that we are seeing different forms of malnutrition, it’s that every country in the world is affected. So this is not just a problem that affects the poorest countries in the world. It affects everyone. When you start to pull together all those different forms of malnutrition, irrespective of wealth, every country has a problem,” said Ms Hawkes.