An Unseen Problem | Teen Ink

An Unseen Problem

April 26, 2017
By EvanH BRONZE, RPV, California
EvanH BRONZE, RPV, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

When most hear malnutrition, they tend to think of the children Africa and other similar third world countries with distended stomachs, and skin clinging to their bones. However, here,in the U.S., malnutrition often goes unseen. Here, malnutrition presents itself in children who fall outside the expected growth chart in weight and height. The World Health Organization calls it “silent undernutrition.”  In addition to the short, bony child many imagine when they hear malnutrition, malnutrition has another face in America, Obesity.


68.8% of adults and approximately one-third of children in America are obese or overweight. Obesity has been shown to increase the chance of or even cause osteoarthritis, diabetes,
liver and kidney disease, cancer, depression, and cardiovascular disease.  Not only is the acquisition of these diseases aided by obesity- obesity increases the mortality rate as well. 

Conversely, underdevelopment due to malnutrition can be greatly detrimental to an individual’s future due to physical stunting and risks of disease. The malnourished have been found to have higher rates of cardiovascular disease  as well as a lower average height  compared to siblings who had adequate nutrition.  Diminished cognitive function, however, is the greatest detriment.

Malnourished children have shown both reduced academic achievement and increased behavioral issues. Standardized test scores in math of the undernourished have shown to be six to seven percent below that of other children.  Children similarly malnourished as infants were found, ten years later, to have been more likely to repeat a grade and to experience social and attention complications and depression and anxiety.  This diminished academic achievement and more difficult mental processing often translates to a lesser degree of success in the working world, possibly leading to lower paying jobs which translate to the children of low-income families remaining low-income into their adult life.

Obesity and underdevelopment are two sides on the same coin of malnutrition. A “heads I win, tails you lose” coin that is present low-income families 2-3 times as much as the rest of a population.  These families are often not able to afford nutritious food and, with the availability of cheap fast food, often turn to nutrient-bare, unhealthy foods. As a result, low-income families often find themselves nutrient deficient, significantly below the Recommended Daily Allowances in nutrient intake.

Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C are some of the most common under-consumed nutrients- nutrients that the tree Moringa Oleifera is rich in.   Moringa Oleifera is a tree indigenous to tropical regions that grows quickly, harvestable within months, is hardy, able to survive in a wide range of temperatures, and drought resistant, making growing easier and cheaper than other edible plants that require more water.  It could be grown in most backyards and even in pots indoors for those with more extreme weather conditions and seed distribution is cheap and easy as Moringa begin to produce many seeds within months. If they must be purchased, communities can buy thousands of seeds that have 80-90% germination rates for just twenty-five dollars. In addition to these traits, many parts of Moringa trees are edible including its leaves, flowers, seeds, and seed pods which can be used as seasonings, sprinkled into sauces, or eaten as-is.

The Moringa tree is known, as well, to have gram for gram, “more Vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas.”  This tree is also high in B-vitamins, protein, and Magnesium.  In studies with rats, it has been found to aid with diabetes and heart and lung problems as well as aiding in liver function.  After five days of Moringa supplementation, breastfeeding mothers were found to produce milk equivalent to 180% of those in a control group, further aiding in solving malnutrition for their infants.

Moringa Oleifera is a highly nutritious tree that grows and survives like a weed. Its high nutritional value and low-maintenance, low-cost growing make it a potentially incredibly beneficial plant for low-income families suffering from malnutrition and for preventing others in the future from undernutrition. This unknown plant could help solve this unseen problem.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.