#first world problems. It’s becoming a common hashtag to describe amusing or trivial annoyances that affect our daily lives. But far more seriously, despite rising levels of obesity, malnutrition is still very much a first world problem in many areas.


Earlier this week I wrote about vitamin supplements and whether they were always necessary in the modern world. With rising levels of obesity in the UK and US, it’s easy to assume that the majority of people must be getting all the nutrients they need. But according to recent research, as many as 85% of American citizens are failing to get all the vitamins and minerals they need on a regular basis. This hidden hunger, known as micronutrient deficiency, is particularly damaging to young children under the age of two years.

We are all too sadly aware of hunger in developing countries, where organisations like the World Food Programme work to ensure as many people – particularly children – as possible get all the nutrients they need for mental and physical health. But nowadays, many children in the developed world get all the calories they need – and more besides – but are still deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. So effectively, they are undernourished despite having enough to eat.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition, more than half american children don’t get enough vitamin D or E, and more than a quarter consume less than the recommended amount of vitamin A, calcium or magnesium. This makes them more likely to suffer from illnesses and, unsurprisingly, perform less well at school as a result.

So, to go back to the beginning of my previous post, the simple answer to avoid these problems is to take a vitamin supplement. Multivitamins are readily available, as are fortified foods such as breakfast cereals that contain many essential vitamins and minerals. The Department of Health in the UK recommends that all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years are given supplements in the form of vitamin drops, containing at least vitamins A, C and D. The important thing to remember here is to not give them more than one supplement = for example, cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D so they shouldn’t have both.

Of course, this is no substitute for a healthy diet. But for young fussy eaters, vitamin supplements offer peace of mind for parents; and taking a multivitamin is a good idea whatever your age if you are at all concerned about whether you are getting all the nutrients you need.