Programs need to focus on the double burden of malnutrition: Evidence from Guatemala

Most countries, at all levels of development and in all regions of the world, today face a double burden of malnutrition: The coexistence of nutritional deficiencies such as stunting and micronutrient deficits on the one hand, and overweight, obesity, and noncommunicable diet-related diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension on the other. Not only is this double burden widespread, it exists at the individual, household, and population levels.

The consequences of malnutrition are long-lasting and costly. Undernutrition can set in motion a lifetime of adversity, including delayed child development, poor school performance, and lower earnings. Adults who have suffered from undernutrition early in life are at greater risk of overweight, obesity, and diet-related NCDs, especially if they live in countries undergoing the nutrition transition and related spread in obesogenic environments. Overweight and obese adults are more likely to suffer from NCDs, causing a host of problems for affected individuals, families, and communities, including increased mortality and rising healthcare costs.

Photo Credit: Mercy Corps