Smiley face
Weather     Live Markets

Children and young people who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of iron deficiency, according to a study conducted by nutritional scientists at the University of Leeds. The researchers examined thousands of medical studies from 44 countries involving people under the age of 25, where levels of iron and other vitamins and minerals were recorded alongside weight. They found that iron deficiency was associated with both underweight and overweight children and adolescents, with deficiencies in zinc and vitamin A only observed in undernourished children. This suggests that iron deficiency in overweight children is likely due to inflammation disrupting the mechanisms that regulate iron absorption. The findings, which were published in the BMJ Global Health journal, highlight the negative impact of iron deficiency on brain function and the increased risk of conditions such as autism and ADHD.

Lead author Xiaomian Tan emphasized the importance of recognizing deficiencies in critical micronutrients in children and adolescents who are overweight or obese, dubbing this as a hidden form of malnutrition. The researchers hope that their study will raise awareness of this issue among healthcare practitioners, leading to improvements in clinical practice and care. Historically, malnutrition has been associated with undernutrition, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries where hunger is a major cause of mortality for young children. However, it is now becoming increasingly apparent that vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also occur in overweight and obese individuals with poor quality diets, a phenomenon known as ‘hidden hunger’.

In recent decades, many developing countries have faced a double burden of malnutrition, with the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity alongside ongoing issues of undernutrition. The presence of ‘hidden hunger’ in individuals with obesity highlights the need for a shift in focus from solely addressing undernutrition to also addressing overnutrition and the associated deficiencies in vital nutrients. The stark figures provided by the researchers indicate a global increase in the number of overweight children, particularly in Africa and Asia, highlighting the urgent need for interventions to address the double burden of malnutrition in these regions. This is particularly concerning given the economic growth and transition to high-sugar, high-fat diets that are occurring in these areas.

The study also underscores the differences in research focus between higher income countries and developing nations, with a majority of studies in Africa and Asia concentrating on undernutrition while studies from North America and Europe predominantly focus on overnutrition. The researchers stress the importance of addressing deficiencies in micronutrients in relation to the double burden of malnutrition for child health. They point out that by the age of 11 in the UK, one in three children are living with overweight or obesity, indicating the need to address issues such as inflammation leading to iron deficiency in overweight children. Iron deficiency may be a warning sign, but the long-term consequences of inflammation can lead to serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and fatty liver.

To combat inflammation and improve iron status in children, increasing physical activity and improving diet have been suggested as effective interventions. The researchers call for further studies to investigate the effectiveness of these interventions in addressing the issue of micronutrient deficiencies in children who are overweight or obese. Additionally, they emphasize the need for more research into the double burden of malnutrition and overnutrition in countries where data is lacking, in order to develop targeted strategies to improve child health outcomes. Overall, the study highlights the importance of addressing hidden hunger and vitamin and mineral deficiencies in children and adolescents who are overweight or obese, to ensure better health outcomes for future generations.

© 2024 Globe Echo. All Rights Reserved.