Prompted by massive advertisement campaigns, sales of instant noodles and fizzy drinks have sky-rocketed in Nepal. Among the world's 7 billion people, 3 billion either eat too little, too much, or eat unhealthily.
It is easy to detect when people are severely lacking calories because they will appear "marasmic" (chronic starvation). When people are obese, the effects are all too obvious as well. But it is "hidden" starvation (the group that eats unhealthily) that may go unnoticed.
If a nutrition survey is done in a Nepali village, it is likely to show a high degree of malnourishment. Many people are just barely healthy, which predisposes them to illnesses. While poor nutrition is the norm, people may have other priorities besides a healthy diet like buying a better television set.
Even in remote Nepal, instant noodles have replaced the more nutritious sampa or sattu made of barley or other grains. Noodles, although very convenient to prepare, only provide empty calories compared to the vitamin B and mineral- rich barley. Since 'mohi' (watered-down butter milk) has been replaced by sugary drinks where available, the nutritional trade-off has been unhelpful in promoting health. People may not appear to be starving, but the 'hidden' hunger is taking its toll.
More than 160 million children in developing countries suffer from vitamin A deficiency, and many are afflicted by night blindness and even permanent visual problems. Iodine deficiency which causes goiter and developmental disabilities affects 18 million babies each year. It used to be a significant problem in the Khumbu region in Nepal, when iodine-deficient salt was 'yaked in' from Tibet, but nowadays thanks to iodine- enriched salt, goitre and mental problems are much less common in that area. (Interestingly, with the decrease in goiter cases, fewer Nepalis are superstitiously blowing into their hands after touching their neck to ward off goitre).
In 2008 as part of the Copenhagen declaration, eight eminent economists were asked to propose plans that would be most beneficial for humanity. Half of them recommended proper nutrition. For young people planning exciting careers, a useful and satisfying future may lie in being a nutritionist to help deal with the world's problems.